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Judge drops murder charge against Daly

October 13, 2018

Justin Morgan Daly appears in Skagit County Superior Court in July for a competency hearing.

MOUNT VERNON — A second-degree murder charge has been dropped against a man accused of killing his landlord in 2012 after Skagit County Superior Court Judge Dave Needy found the man not competent to stand trial.

Needy’s Oct. 4 decision to drop the charge against Justin Morgan Daly came after a psychologist tasked with determining whether Daly was exaggerating symptoms of mental illness released a 15-page report of his findings.

Needy signed the order dismissing Daly’s case Thursday.

Daly is accused of bludgeoning his 52-year-old landlord, Louis Ariemma, with a baseball bat and cutting the man’s head with a chain saw on Oct. 8, 2012.

Nathan Andrews, a licensed psychologist-forensic evaluator with the state Office of Forensic Mental Health Services, stated in his Aug. 20 report that Daly refused to leave his jail cell for his Aug. 1 evaluation, so testing was not completed.

Andrews was unable to form an opinion regarding Daly’s competency to stand trial, the report states.

Court documents state Needy used previous reports filed by Andrews to rule on Daly’s competency.

Daly will now be evaluated for civil commitment to a state psychiatric hospital, as was done in 2016 when his case was first dismissed for competency reasons.

Charges can be refiled if Daly is determined to be competent.

Prosecutor Paul Nielsen said he and Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney Rich Weyrich will do what they can to proceed with Daly’s case.

“At this point, we are intending to continue prosecuting,” Nielsen said.

Since 2012, Daly has undergone eight competency evaluations, the majority of which determined he lacked the capacity to understand the nature of the proceedings against him and to assist in his own defense.

After Daly was found not competent in 2016, a second-degree murder charge was refiled in 2017 after it was determined his competency was restored by Western State Hospital.

When Needy ordered Andrews to evaluate Daly for symptom exaggeration on July 13, Daly said in court that he would not undergo another evaluation.

In his August report, Andrews stated he could not rule out the possibility that Daly is exaggerating his symptoms — a concern repeatedly addressed over the years.

Due to Daly’s refusal to cooperate, Andrews wrote the only option for evaluation would be to place Daly in an inpatient setting where he could be under 24-hour observation.

When Andrews’ report was brought up at a Sept. 28 competency hearing, Daly’s lawyer Keith Tyne argued to dismiss the case, to transfer Daly to Western State Hospital and to continue the matter as a civil commitment proceeding.

Nielsen argued there was sufficient evidence in the report to find Daly incompetent and order a 90-day restoration period.

Needy ruled to dismiss the case a week later.

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