A sign near an entrance to Western State Hospital is shown March 19, 2020, in Lakewood. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren)

A sign near an entrance to Western State Hospital is shown March 19, 2020, in Lakewood. (AP Photo / Ted S. Warren)

Edmonds murder charge dismissed due to mental health treatment delays

John Fry allegedly confessed to killing his father in 2019. He has waited months to be admitted to Western State Hospital.

EVERETT — After months of waiting for mental health treatment, an Edmonds man’s first-degree murder charge in the death of his father was dismissed Wednesday.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis found John Fry’s continued wait for transport to Western State Hospital could violate his due process rights.

“His dangerousness is obvious, yet it is not appropriate to maintain him in the Snohomish County Jail without a reliable path towards restoration services,” Ellis said in court Wednesday. “So I am going to dismiss the case without prejudice,” meaning charges could be refiled in the future.

John Fry, now 27, must get evaluated by a designated crisis responder before he is released from jail. He remained in custody Thursday.

Fry had been diagnosed with schizophrenia a couple of years before the killing of his father, Stephen, he reportedly told police. But he didn’t believe he had a legitimate mental illness.

Fry believed his father was abusing him, but he was never assaulted, he reported, according to the murder charges. In October 2018, John Fry first thought about harming Stephen Fry, 64, as he tried to get a protection order against his father.

Over a year later, in late November 2019, he took to the internet, searching terms like “the definition of treason,” “justifiable homicide” and “excusable homicide.” He’d decided to kill his dad, prosecutors alleged.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 21, John Fry reportedly heard Stephen Fry using the bathroom upstairs in their Edmonds home. He told police he thought he heard his father talking about a gun. But he conceded he may have imagined that. He went upstairs with a Nerf gun and utility knife.

John Fry confronted his father and punched him in the face many times, according to court papers. He dragged Stephen Fry to the master bedroom. With the knife he’d brought, John Fry repeatedly stabbed him.

After Stephen Fry died, John Fry reportedly thought about burning the home down, but didn’t want to damage neighboring houses.

John Fry then went to the Edmonds Police Department to report the “premeditated murder on my father,” according to the charges. When police arrived at the home, they found Stephen Fry dead and a note on the kitchen counter.

“I am John Henry Fry unarmed and content,” it read, according to court records.

A few weeks later, Snohomish County prosecutors charged John Fry with first-degree premeditated murder. Judge Ellis ordered a competency evaluation.

Finding the defendant lacked the capacity to assist in his legal defense, Superior Court Judge Richard Okrent later that month ordered 90 days of competency restoration treatment. At his intake, John Fry reported feeling other people were putting thoughts in his head. That had stopped about a week before, but he still heard whispers, according to a psychological evaluation.

After the 90 days, a psychologist recommended further treatment. In June 2020, a judge ordered a second 90-day restoration period, finding the defendant lacked the capacity to both understand the proceedings against him and assist in his defense.

After that, a psychologist determined John Fry’s condition had improved while he took medication. If he stopped taking that medication, or used other substances, his condition might worsen again, the psychologist noted.

In October 2020, a Snohomish County judge determined he could stand trial.

But the Edmonds man stopped taking his medication voluntarily due to the side effects and mental health concerns creeped back, his public defender Robert O’Neal said in court Wednesday. In April of this year, a judge ordered John Fry receive more restoration treatment. In such cases, defendants are required to be admitted within a week.

But months later, John Fry remained at the Snohomish County Jail as bed constraints at Western State Hospital repeatedly kept him from treatment. So O’Neal pushed for the case to be dismissed, arguing in court filings that “this is an unconstitutional delay that violates substantive due process.”

Deputy prosecutor Bob Hendrix told Judge Ellis he was frustrated, too. He called for other tactics to expedite the case, such as finding the state in contempt or issuing fines.

Across Washington, orders for restoration treatment have jumped heavily. The past eight years have seen a 145% increase in demand, outpacing the available bed space for criminal defendants, assistant attorney general Andrew Logerwell wrote to the court in August. It would have been higher if not for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have any good news,” Logerwell said Wednesday. “And it is a difficult problem that is probably going to remain, to be fixed and difficult for a little while.”

Ellis joined the “chorus of frustration.” While his due process rights haven’t been violated yet, she argued, “if this is the ebb and flow of this case, it can’t be allowed to continue.”

“I cannot continue to find that Mr. Fry’s ongoing detention at Snohomish County Corrections, awaiting an elusive bed date, won’t violate his due process rights,” the judge said.

There is no statute of limitations for murder, so prosecutors have no deadline for refiling charges.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

Talk to us

More in Local News

The county canvassing board certifies election results at the Snohomish County Auditor’s Office in Everett, Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
General election results stamped official by canvassing board

In Snohomish County, one hand recount will take place. Officials said ballot challenges were down this year.

The Days Inn on Everett Mall Way, which Snohomish County is set to purchase and convert into emergency housing, is seen Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Over $130M for affordable housing set to be approved by County Council

The five-year investment plan of the 0.1% sales tax aims to construct 550 new affordable units.

Two snowboarders head up the mountain in a lift chair on the opening day of ski season at Stevens Pass Ski Area on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, near Skykomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Ski season delayed at Stevens Pass due to minimal snow

Resort originally planned to open Dec. 1. But staff are hopeful this week’s snow will allow guests to hit the slopes soon.

Siblings Qingyun, left, and Ruoyun Li, 12 and 13, respectively, are together on campus at Everett Community College on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023, in Everett, Washington. The two are taking a full course load at the community college this semester. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Siblings, age 12 and 13, are youngest students at EvCC campus

Qingyun Li was 11 when he scored a perfect 36 on the ACT test. His sister, Ruoyun, was one point away.

Edmond’s newly elected mayor Mike Rosen on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mayor-elect Rosen wants to ‘make Edmonds politics boring again’

Mike Rosen handily defeated incumbent Mayor Mike Nelson. He talked with The Herald about how he wants to gather the “full input” of residents.

A speed camera facing west along 220th Street Southwest on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Traffic cameras, and tickets, come to Edmonds; Mukilteo could be next

New school zone cameras in Edmonds will begin operating in January. Mukilteo is considering enforcement cameras as well.

A person walks their dog along a flooded Old Snohomish Monroe Road on Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Flood-resistant floors and sandbags are price of riverside life in Sultan

Flooding is a threat every year for 75,000 locals — and the long-term forecast suggests it’ll only get worse in the coming decades.

Lynnwood
3 men charged in armed home invasion near Everett

Prosecutors allege the trio targeted other Asian American homes across Snohomish, Whatcom and King counties.

Team members prep for the upcoming ski season at Stevens Pass Resort in Skykomish, Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Any day now: All eyes on snow forecast at Stevens Pass

The ski area was a flurry of activity this week, as staff made sure a new lift and app were running smoothly.

Everett
Carjacking suspects tracked via GPS from Everett to Renton, then arrested

A King County resident reported two people stole their Mercedes at gunpoint. Hours later, its GPS tracker pinged in north Everett.

Edmonds
Man sentenced for racist threats to Edmonds animal control officer

Sean Wagner spewed slurs at an officer who seized his dogs. He was sentenced to jail for a hate crime.

A sign in front of the AquaSox front office references the upcoming Everett City Council vote on a sum of $1.1 million to give to outside contractors to help upgrade a new stadium on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett AquaSox stadium upgrade gets $1.1M green light from city

City officials want to keep the team in Everett. But will they play in a new stadium downtown in 2027? Or an updated Funko Field?

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.