EVERETT — A man charged in the 1993 abduction and killing of Bothell teenager Melissa Lee has been indefinitely committed to a state mental institution by order of a Snohomish County judge.
First-degree murder charges against Alan Edward Dean, 63, were dismissed this week under the civil order but can be filed again if a judge finds him competent to stand trial in the future.
In the meantime, the former Boeing mechanic will be held at Western State Hospital in Pierce County.
Dean was arrested in July 2020 with the help of forensic research by a genetic genealogist who used crime scene DNA to build family trees until she identified its source — and the suspect. The same technique led to a breakthrough in the Golden State Killer case, as well as other long-unsolved cases in Snohomish County.
Lee went missing late April 13, 1993. She was alone at home that night in Bothell. She spoke with her mother on the phone for the last time around 9:30 p.m. After a night of karaoke with her boyfriend, Lee’s mother returned around 2 a.m. to find the front door open. Cushions were out of place. Milk, peanuts and an ashtray were dumped on the floor, and the room smelled strange, like “ether,” according to charging papers.
Hours later, passersby found Lee’s body in brush beneath the Edgewater Creek bridge, on the border of Everett and Mukilteo. Her disheveled clothes — pink shorts and a sweatshirt — were the kind of things she almost never wore outside the house.
An autopsy showed she was strangled to death, and toxicology tests revealed she had ethyl ether and a trace of heptane in her bloodstream. It appeared she had been sexually assaulted.
Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives ran down leads. In a planner, Lee wrote weeks earlier about meeting up with a man who went by Michael.
A detective called the number she listed for Michael. Dean answered. Later, he told police he had used the fake name on a semi-anonymous phone chat talk line, where he met Lee, and that he’d met her in person twice. According to his report to police, it was news to him that she died.
After three interviews, sheriff’s detectives had no other contact with Dean for almost 27 years.
Lee’s face was featured on the King of Diamonds in a deck of cold case playing cards that were given out to prisoners in 2008 with the hope of generating fresh leads in dozens of Snohomish County cases.
In 2019, in a renewed effort to solve the cold case, the sheriff’s office sent a sample of Lee’s stained underwear to Parabon NanoLabs. Experts there extracted a DNA profile that was forwarded to forensic genealogist CeCe Moore.
Moore’s family tree research led sheriff’s detectives back to Dean. They put him under surveillance. An undercover detective watched as Dean, a Bothell resident, tossed a cigarette butt outside his home in April 2020. Saliva on the cigarette was tested at a state crime lab, and it came back as an apparent DNA match for the stain on Lee’s clothes, according to charging papers.
Prosecutors noted Dean had been accused of a sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in the 1980s, as well as the alleged rape of an ex-girlfriend in the 1990s. He wasn’t convicted in either case.
Dean was arrested in the homicide in July 2020. His competency has been in question ever since.
In his first appearance in court, Dean made barely coherent rambling statements to a judge, using legal jargon often repeated by so-called sovereign citizens — the extremist anti-government movement in which U.S. residents refuse to recognize the authority of courts, police and taxing entities.
At his arraignment in August, the defendant refused to identify himself and spoke in what one deputy prosecutor described as “gibberish.” He was sent to Western State Hospital for a mental evaluation.
In his admission interview Oct. 8, 2020, Dean gave irrelevant answers to questions, claimed his food had been poisoned because of a government plot against him and wavered between saying he had millions of dollars and saying he had no money, according to a psychiatric report in the case file.
Dean did not want his public defender, Jon Scott, to represent him in court. His lawyer tried to listen to another court-ordered mental examination over the phone, but Dean grew “agitated,” according to a forensic mental health report dated Oct. 16, 2020.
“He’s not my attorney,” Dean insisted. “He’s posing, pretending. He has no business in my business. He has no business speaking on my behalf. I take that as identity theft and enticement into slavery.”
Scott agreed to hang up.
Dean remained “mostly uncooperative.”
Evaluators found him to be delusional, paranoid and antisocial, with a potential diagnosis of schizophrenia.
“It’s very frustrating” to finally have the technology to find and arrest a suspect, only to discover his mental health is what it is at this stage in his life, deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson said this week.
In November, county prosecutors asked a judge to sign an order forcing Dean to be medicated.
“The prognosis for reduction of the defendant’s mental systems without clinically indicated medication is extremely poor,” Dr. Daniel Ruiz Paredes wrote from Western State Hospital.
Since Lee was killed so long ago, “the government has a heightened interest in providing resolution to family members who have been awaiting answers for almost 3 decades,” deputy prosecutor Laura Twitchell argued in a legal memorandum.
Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis authorized forced medication of the antipsychotic drugs Zyprexa and Haldol.
Over the past four months, Dean wrote a rambling series of letters to Superior Court judges in which he claimed he wasn’t a U.S. citizen “as it pertains to being a FEDERAL EMPLOYEE and a Resident of the DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.”
“i do hereby require to be set free immediately with complete restitution and recoupment, settlement and closer, to be made whole … again in the nature of Tresavant v. the city of Tampa $65,000 an hour for deprevation of liberty and Constitutional Rights,” Dean wrote by hand.
Superior Court Judge Richard Okrent signed an order of indefinite civil commitment Monday in Dean’s case, finding the defendant lacked mental capacity to understand the proceedings against him and that he could not assist in his own defense.
Okrent noted he reviewed an updated mental health report from April. The judge then ticked a box on the court paperwork: “The defendant is unlikely to regain competency in a reasonable period of time.”
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; email@example.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.