A first-degree murder charge against Edmonds resident John Henry Fry has been dismissed due to protracted delays in court-ordered mental health treatment and competency evaluation.
Fry, 27, had been charged with the November 2021 murder of his 64-year-old father at their home in Edmonds’ Seaview neighborhood. Fry then walked to the Edmonds Police Station and turned himself in.
“He walked up to the door at 2:41 a.m. and rang the station call box, saying he wanted to report that he had committed a ‘pre-meditated homicide against my father,’” explained Edmonds Police spokesperson Sgt. Shane Hawley at the time. “The suspect told the responding officers that he had just stabbed his father and walked to the police station to report it.”
Officers immediately went to the address supplied by the suspect, in the 18700 block of 84th Avenue West, to verify the story. There they discovered the 64-year-old male victim deceased with multiple stab wounds. Fry was taken into custody and held in the Snohomish County jail on $1 million bond. (See My Edmonds News Dec. 2019 coverage of the incident here)
He was subsequently charged with first-degree premeditated murder. Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis ordered a competency evaluation, which found that Fry lacked the capacity to assist in his legal defense.
The court subsequently ordered that he receive competency restoration treatment After two 90-day sessions of this treatment, which included psycotropic medications, a psychologist determined that his condition had improved, but cautioned that if he stopped taking the medications his condition would likely revert.
Based on this information, in October 2020 a judge determined that he could stand trial.
However, before this could happen Fry, citing acute side effects, voluntarily stopped his medication. He remained in custody until April 2022, when the court ordered that he receive additional competency restoration treatment to commence within 14 days of the court order.
But due to a host of factors, COVID among them, beds were not available at Western State Hospital, and according to hospital officials none would likely become available for at least six months – leaving Fry in continued custody in the Snohomish County Jail.
Fry’s protracted incarceration raised increasing concerns among his defense team, prosecutors and the courts about violating his due-process rights. This engendered a flurry of legal proceedings — among them a motion to hold the Washington State Department of Health and Human Services in contempt of court for failure to provide treatment for Fry within the timeframe ordered by the court. That ultimately led to dismissing the charges against him.
Judge Janice Ellis on Sept. 22 noted that while “the nature of the charge…indicates that the defendant presents a significant danger to the community…the remedy after this time is not to simply keep him in jail.” Ellis ruled to dismiss the case “without prejudice” and committed Fry to Western State Hospital for 72 hours “for evaluation the purpose of filing a civil commitment petition.” This treatment must start within 14 days of her ruling, Ellis said, during which time Fry would remain incarcerated. She further ordered that the defendant “shall be released if not offered admission to the state hospital within 14 days.”
Dismissing the case without prejudice leaves open the possibility that charges will be refiled.
Fry is currently being held pending commencement of his 72-hour civil commitment evaluation.
— By Larry Vogel