Alan Edward Dean during his first arraignment at Snohomish County Courthouse on Aug. 17, 2020 in Everett. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Alan Edward Dean during his first arraignment at Snohomish County Courthouse on Aug. 17, 2020 in Everett. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Murder charges in 1993 killing of Bothell teen dismissed for second time

It did not appear likely that Alan Dean could be mentally competent to stand trial in Melissa Lee’s death.

EVERETT — Concluding that Alan Edward Dean, 64, may never be mentally competent to stand trial, a Snohomish County Superior Court judge dismissed murder charges for the second time Monday in the long-unsolved killing of Bothell teenager Melissa Lee.

The case had gone cold for nearly three decades, until breakthroughs in forensic genealogy led to Dean’s arrest in July 2020. A used cigarette butt linked him to the killing of Lee, who was 15 when she died in April 1993.

Lee and Dean had met on an anonymous phone line, according to court papers. Her mother came home to a house in shambles that night in April 1993. Soon after, passersby found Lee’s body 50 feet below the Edgewater Creek bridge on Mukilteo Boulevard.

At court appearances after prosecutors charged him with first-degree murder in 2020, Dean rambled incoherently. At his first arraignment, he refused to identify himself. After he refused to cooperate at another hearing, a judge ordered Dean undergo a mental health evaluation.

Finding Dean didn’t have the capacity to understand the nature of the proceedings against him or to help in his defense, Snohomish County judges twice ordered competency restoration treatment at a state psychiatric hospital. In that time, Dean wrote a series of letters to Superior Court judges in which he claimed he wasn’t a U.S. citizen.

After doctors argued the defendant was unlikely to soon regain competency, Judge Richard Okrent dismissed the case in April 2021 and indefinitely committed Dean to the hospital. Prosecutors could refile the charges if a judge found him competent to stand trial in the future.

In January, doctors at Western State Hospital petitioned for a 180-day commitment. They called Dean “gravely disabled,” noting he suffered from severe major depressive disorder and physical and psychiatric impairment, according to court documents.

The doctors argued Dean was ready for a “less restrictive alternative placement when an appropriate one is available,” like an adult family home.

The petition was approved in late January, Dean’s public defender Jon Scott wrote in court documents.

Snohomish County prosecutors refiled criminal charges earlier this month, when as assistant state attorney general gave them the heads up that Dean was going to be discharged from the hospital. The assistant attorney general wasn’t sure what that discharge would look like, whether it be a move to an adult family home or release, according to court papers.

On March 8, Dean was booked into the Snohomish County Jail, with bail set at $2 million.

In court documents, Scott argued prosecutors needed to show there was a “good-faith basis” Dean could be restored. The defendant should be sent back to Western State Hospital, the defense attorney wrote.

Matheson, on the other hand, argued doctors’ beliefs Dean could be moved out of the hospital showed he had improved and could be made competent to stand trial.

In court papers, Scott wrote the move was not ”an indication that Mr. Dean’s cognitive impairment has improved.”

“But rather a realization that the level of care he needs to manage his existing and unchanged mental health condition can be served at a facility with less services available than are available in full hospitalization,” Scott wrote.

At a hearing Monday, jail staff helped Dean walk into the courtroom. He sat in a chair, slumping, wearing a green-and-white striped uniform. He switched from looking down, staring blankly, to closing his eyes.

Superior Court Judge Anna Alexander found the renewal of criminal charges was a mistake, and dismissed the case.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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