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Judge must decide Guendulain’s competency

A judge must decide whether a 72-year-old man charged with stabbing a South Kitsap woman to death in their home nearly 10 years ago is now competent to stand trial. And that decision will likely not be made until next year.

After a status hearing in Kitsap County Superior Court on Monday regarding the murder case against Joseph Domingo Guendulain — who has been hospitalized at Western State Hospital since 1996 — Deputy Prosecutor Jeremy Morris said a competency hearing will almost certainly not be scheduled this year.

“We’re still trying to schedule the hearing (where the judge will determine his competency),” Morris said, explaining that another status hearing is scheduled for Dec. 27 and it’s still unclear whether the defense will concede that Guendulain is competent or not.

Shortly after he was charged with stabbing his estranged girlfriend, Christine Rose, to death in her bed, Guendulain was declared unfit for trial and admitted to Western State.

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 being seriously disabled.

Kitsap County prosecutors then re-filed a second-degree murder charge against Guendulain, and he was ordered in July 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.”

They based their conclusions on various observations, including their own interviews with the defendant, during which he exhibited “manipulative behavior,” but also on statements from the hospital staff that described Guendulain as consistently “working all the angles” to his advantage.

The evaluators also noted that during his stay at the hospital, Guendulain’s room was always kept “neat and orderly and his (personal) grooming was impeccable ... which is inconsistent with a severely demented or psychotic individual.”

Morris said even though the evaluators declared Guendulain competent, it is still up to a judge whether or not he can stand trial.

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

Rose was found dead on April 12, 1996, by Kitsap County Sheriff’s deputies after her friend reported that she had not heard from the victim for several days. An autopsy revealed Rose died of a stab wound to the chest, and approximated the time of death as six days earlier.

Deputies reported that Guendulain had not been heard from or seen since April 6, when a local bartender said he came into his bar and drank several glasses of scotch. Acquaintances of both said the defendant was very possessive of Rose and known to be violent.

Guendulain was tracked driving over the Canadian border the day after Rose’s murder. He later boarded a plane to Spain. The following month, Guendulain was arrested in Kitsap County when he returned to town. Authorities learned he was planning to fly to Chile.

Shortly after he was charged with murder, Guendulain was declared incompetent to stand trail and transferred to Western State. In 2002, a psychiatrist found him incompetent due to “severe memory problems, and that he had a moderate to high risk of future assaultive behavior, especially toward women.”

Dean and Ronnei wrote that they “differ with some of the past diagnostic opinions regarding” Guendulain.

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