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Suspect pleads guilty in 1996 murder

More than 10 years after Christine Rose was found stabbed to death in her bed, her boyfriend pleaded guilty last week to killing her in their South Kitsap home.

Joseph Guendulain, now 73, accepted a second-degree murder charge in Kitsap County Superior Court Friday, officially filing what is known as an Alford plea.

“You are not admitting guilt but conceding that the prosecution would probably be able to prove their case if you went to trial,” Judge Russell W. Hartman told Guendulain. “However, the legal consequences of this conviction are no different than for other pleas.”

Satisfied that Guendulain understood the substance of his plea, Hartman then asked the defendant and his defense attorney Roger Hunko if it had been entered both willingly and knowingly.

“I have spent many hours with the defendant to make sure he understood the agreement and is making a rational choice,” said Hunko, whose client was declared incompetent to stand trial 10 years ago and has spent most of the years since committed to Western State Hospital near Tacoma.

Finally, before accepting his plea, Hartman informed Guendulain that although Deputy Prosecutor Jeremy Morris was recommending a 123-month sentence, or 10.25 years, he did not have to stay within those parameters.

“I can sentence you to (any amount) in the standard range that I think is appropriate,” Hartman said, explaining that the maximum sentence could be 164 months, or 13.6 years.

If Guendulain receives the minimum sentence, he will soon be a free man, since it was also determined in court Friday that his time at Western State will be credited as “time served,” starting with his arrest on May 9, 1996.

“The court is obligated to give Guendulain credit for his time in the hospital — there is simply no way around that, as far as I can tell,” Morris said, explaining that state law considers any time spent in a 24-hour, government-run facility as equal to jail or prison time.

According to court documents, Guendulain was 63 when he was originally arrested for the murder of Rose, with whom he was living at 6910 McCormick Woods Drive.

She was found stabbed to death in her bed on April 12, 1996, though it was later determined that she died several days earlier on April 6.

Shortly after he was charged with murder, Guendulain was declared incompetent to stand trial and was transferred to Western State.

In 2002, a psychiatrist declared him incompetent due to “severe memory problems, and that he had a moderate to high risk of future assaultive behavior, especially toward women.”

He was then re-committed every six months thereafter until last June, when, according to court documents, his treatment team determined he no longer met the criteria for civil commitment — which is either posing an imminent danger to himself or others, or gravelly disabled.

Kitsap County prosecutors then re-filed the murder charge against Guendulain, and he was ordered last summer to undergo another evaluation to determine his competency to stand trial.

This time, Margaret Dean and Marilyn Ronnei — both evaluators for the hospital’s Program for Forensic Evaluations in Corrections and the Community — determined that Guendulain is not insane, and instead has been “feigning” mental illness to avoid standing trial.

“(Guendulain) presents as an individual who is attempting to fabricate and feign mental illness,” states the report prepared by Dean, a psychiatrist, and Ronnei, a psychologist. “(He) demonstrates a strong motivation to portray himself as (ill) ... but was unable to do so in a consistent or convincing manner.”

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