Patient killed at Eastern State Hospital

MEDICAL LAKE — A male patient at Eastern State Hospital was killed early Tuesday morning, and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office said a female patient has been detained in the case.

The man was found dead around 3 a.m. Tuesday, sheriff’s spokesman Craig Chamberlin said.

“We’re not putting out the method of death,” he said.

The identity of the victim has not been released, but the suspect was identified by the sheriff’s office as Amber I. Roberts, 30. She has been booked into the Spokane County Jail for suspicion of first degree murder.

Roberts in 2003 attacked a 72-year-old woman in Yakima, stole the woman’s car and drove it to the Spokane area, where she was apprehended. She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity and was committed indefinitely to the hospital.

Law officers are obtaining warrants to search the rooms of Roberts and the victim, Chamberlin said.

The sheriff’s office is working with the state Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees the mental hospital located in this suburb of Spokane.

Eastern has 287 beds and serves patients from 20 Eastern Washington counties. Other counties are served by Western State Hospital at Lakewood.

The victim was found dead on the floor of the hospital’s forensics unit, where patients are evaluated after being committed by a judge during a criminal case, said John Wiley, a spokesman for DSHS. People are sent there if they are considered a danger to themselves or others, he said.

Patients have been moved out of the ward where the slaying took place, DSHS said.

The union representing Eastern State workers released a statement saying workers have been “diligent in raising concerns about short-staffing” at the hospital. The workers are represented by Local 782 of the Washington Federation of State Employees.

“We have raised these issues with management for more than a year,” the union statement said. “It’s not clear if this understaffing contributed to this morning’s tragedy.”

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