Prisoner allegedly assaulted counselor to stay locked up

  • By Eric Stevick Herald Writer
  • Wednesday, February 16, 2011 2:27pm
  • Local NewsMonroe

MONROE — An inmate accused of assaulting a mental health counselor at the Monroe Correctional Complex on Wednesday told her he wanted to be convicted of a fresh felony so he could keep living in prison, officials said.

Darrel Curtis Holm, 44, was placed in segregation after he grabbed a counselor and pressed her against a wall in the Special Offender Unit, state Department of Corrections spokesman Chad Lewis said. The unit is for offenders who are deemed mentally ill.

The assault occurred in a counseling room, Monroe Police Department spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.

The victim, 42, told investigators that the inmate came into the office and asked her for a pen. He then attacked her from behind, placing both arms around her neck, Willis said. He held the pen in his left hand.

In grabbing the counselor, the inmate allegedly squeezed her identification, which cut into her skin in the shoulder area, Willis said.

She was not seriously injured, officials said.

“There were people right there who came right to her aid,” Willis said. “They were able to pull him off.”

The counselor said the inmate, who was scheduled to be released later this year, told her he wanted to stay in prison, officials said.

“I want a third strike,” he allegedly told the counselor. With his criminal record, another serious violent offense could put Holm in prison for the rest of his life under the state’s three-strikes law.

Holm on Wednesday told officers he will continue assaulting people until he gets his third strike, Willis said. He’s been in prison since 2003 for robbery convictions out of King County.

Teamsters Union Local 117 leaders said Wednesday’s attack points to the need for changes in the state prison system to make sure workers are safe.

Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer Tracey A. Thompson offered this account in a press release: “According to one of the victim’s co-workers, a mentally-ill offender entered a female mental health counselor’s office where she was working alone, grabbed her around her neck, put her in a half-nelson, and held a pen to her throat, threatening to hold her hostage.”

The Monroe complex has been in lockdown since Jan. 29, when corrections officer Jayme Biendl was killed in the chapel at the Washington State Reformatory. No charges have been filed in that case, but the prime suspect, convicted rapist Byron Scherf, 52, reportedly has admitted taking her life. He could face an aggravated first-degree murder charge, which can carry the death penalty.

The correctional center, the state’s largest prison, includes five separate units.

There were 120 violent incidents reported at Monroe between July 2005 and late last year, records show. By far, the bulk of those incidents involved inmates assaulting each other. There were 35 reported incidents of inmates assaulting staff members. Those assaults happened most often in the intensive management unit, the place the state sends its most unruly prisoners.

“The unfortunate reality is that our staff members are assaulted by offenders, many of whom have violent histories,” state corrections secretary Eldon Vail said. “The tragic loss of Officer Biendl has made the public more aware of the dangerous, difficult work our staff members do each day in prisons across the state.”

There were four assaults on staff at Monroe last year that were considered severe enough to require a police investigation. Two of those assaults were on male staff members. The other two were on women, neither of whom were corrections officers.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com

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