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Trial date in 1996 murder stricken

A murder trial scheduled to begin today for an elderly man accused of stabbing a South Kitsap woman 10 years ago was delayed last week in anticipation of the defendant pleading guilty, according to Kitsap County Deputy Prosecutor Jeremy Morris.

“We are anticipating him changing his plea,” said Morris of Joseph Guendulain, the 73-year-old man charged with killing his roommate and estranged girlfriend, Christine Rose, in April of 1996.

Morris said Guendulain’s second-degree murder trial was scheduled to being today; however, the date was stricken and a change of plea hearing has been scheduled for May 19 instead.

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.

Rose 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.

Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputies investigating her death soon learned 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, then later boarded a plane to Spain. The following month, he 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 Hospital in Lakewood.

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.”

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.”

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 which described Guendulain as consistently “working all the angles” to his advantage.

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