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UPDATED: Butts to return to state mental hospital

The accused killer of Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter will be forced to take anti-psychotic drugs


by: PHOTO COURTESY OF BILL WAGNER - Throughout a competency hearing Feb. 20 to Feb. 22, Daniel Butts, accused of killing Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter, kept his fingers in his ears and would not respond to questions from his attorneys. Daniel Butts is heading back to the state mental hospital where he will be forced to take anti-psychotic medications after a Columbia County Circuit Court judge ruled he is not mentally competent to stand trial.

This will mark the first time Butts has taken anti-psychotic drugs. Since his arrest following the death of Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter in 2011, he has refused all forms of medical treatment.

Based on how he responds to treatment, it's possible Butts could be considered competent again.

Meanwhile, given Butts' “unabated irrational conduct” and his “complete lack of cooperation” with his defense attorneys, Judge Ted Grove concluded Feb. 27 that Butts is currently unable to aid and assist in his defense, and “such inability is a result of his current mental deficiencies, possible schizophrenia.”

This is a reversal of a determination Groves made over a year ago when he said Butts was able to aid and assist.

“It is clear that [Butts] is not cooperating with counsel nor participating in his defense,” Grove's Feb. 27 decision states. “Is this a rational and calculated strategy or the product of a mental disorder? … The only way to resolve this dispute is to eliminate the continuing concern of mental illness. Failure to do so at this stage risks grave problems down the road.”

This doesn't mean the case is closed, although the longer it takes to reach a possible trial, the harder it could be to track down witnesses again, said Columbia County District Attorney Stephen Atchison.

“It gets a little complicated,” he said.

At a mental competency hearing that lasted three days, Feb. 20 through Feb.22, Atchison and Butts' attorney's presented their different views, with Butts' attorneys arguing their client suffered from mental illness and Atchison saying Butts does not have a mental illness.

Painter's wife Amy Painter was present when Grove read his decision.

“We were hoping to move forward,” she said, but added that she sees this ruling as a temporary setback. Still it is a disappointment.

“Every now and then you think there's a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “Then it goes dark again.”

For more detailed information about what this ruling could mean, see The Spotlight's coverage March 6.