By Denver Pratt / The Bellingham Herald
BELLINGHAM — The case against a Bellingham man accused of fatally shooting his wife and their pets in their home west of Bellingham Dec. 26 has been put on hold while he attempts to recover from self-inflicted gunshot wounds in the hospital.
Kevin Ralph Heimsoth, 56, is charged with premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of first-degree animal cruelty (a felony) for the death of his wife, 58-year-old Lynn Heimsoth. The charging documents also include an additional penalty for committing the alleged murder with a firearm, according to Whatcom County Superior Court records.
Lynn Heimsoth’s death was ruled a homicide on Dec. 27 by the Whatcom County Medical Examiner’s Office. Lynn Heimsoth had been the principal at Sunnyland Elementary School since July 2017. Previously, she was the principal at Shoultes Elementary School in Marysville from 2013 through the 2017 school year.
Her therapy dog, Sukha — who attended school with her — and a cat were also found fatally shot in the Heimsoth home in the 900 block of Marine Drive.
Kevin Heimsoth was formally arrested Jan. 10 on a warrant, but has not yet been booked into the Whatcom County Jail because he remains hospitalized in Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. As of Wednesday, Feb. 5, Heimsoth was in satisfactory condition, according to a hospital spokesperson.
Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Erik Sigmar said criminal proceedings against Kevin Heimsoth have been stayed until the court enters an order on his competency. Sigmar said that likely won’t happen until Kevin Heimsoth is further evaluated by the same forensic psychiatrist who previously evaluated him, his attending physician or by someone from Western State Hospital, the state’s largest psychiatric hospital.
Kevin Heimsoth was originally scheduled to have a competency hearing on Jan. 23, but that hearing was canceled, according to court records. The hearing was set after his defense attorney, Starck Follis, director of the Whatcom County Public Defender’s Office, filed a motion Jan. 14 to have his case stayed while his competency was evaluated to determine whether he could stand trial, understand the nature of the charges against him or assist in his own defense.
Follis had Dr. Mark McClung, a forensic psychiatrist, review Kevin Heimsoth’s medical records, talk with the day shift Intensive Care Unit nurse, and attempt to interview him in the hospital on Jan. 16, according to court records.
McClung determined that Kevin Heimsoth suffered two gunshot wounds to his head, which caused brain swelling, bleeding and bruising, court records show. In the days after he was admitted, Kevin Heimsoth had brain surgery and also developed an infection, for which he was treated with antibiotics, the court records state.
McClung said physician’s notes state that Kevin Heimsoth’s mental status has waxed and waned, with him being alert and responsive, but other times not being responsive or arousable even to pain, according to court records. Kevin Heimsoth may have spoken his name several times in the first few days after admission, but has been nonverbal since then, court records state.
Based on the medical records and attempted interview, McClung determined Kevin Heimsoth couldn’t communicate information reliably, that he couldn’t assist in his own defense and that it was impossible to determine whether Heimsoth understood the charges against him, court records show.
A sheriff’s detective also interviewed Kevin Heimsoth on Jan. 1, in which Heimsoth told the detective that he didn’t kill his wife and that he knew who did, court records state. McClung’s report states that Kevin Heimsoth may have been more alert during that interview. McClung’s report also states that physician’s notes from the same day as the sheriff’s office’s interview show that Kevin Heimsoth’s head nods for yes and no answers were inconsistent, court records state.
Follis, Kevin Heimsoth’s defense attorney, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
After Kevin Heimsoth’s arrest in early January, he was released on his personal recognizance on a court order. The order directs hospital staff to notify the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and his attorney if there is any meaningful change in his condition, or if he’s moved to another facility, court records show.
If or when Kevin Heimsoth’s condition improves, the sheriff’s office would work with the Whatcom County Prosecutor’s Office to have him taken into custody and appear for future court proceedings, the sheriff’s office previously said.
Twitter also suspended an account that may have belonged to Kevin Heimsoth in which he may have admitted to killing his family in replies to the National Rifle Association, President Donald Trump and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.