Psychologist clears Skykomish murder suspect for trial

Months after he allegedly shot Brandt Stewart on a logging road, Jeremy Staeheli has been arraigned.

SEATTLE — Before he was arrested last year, a man accused of a murder near Skykomish bragged on Facebook he would use his mental health illness to dodge criminal punishment.

“I’m playing the (expletive) out of that card,” he wrote. “You know an acadamy award winning film so to say…hahahahaba.”

Months and a stay at Western State Hospital later, a psychologist gave the green light for court proceedings to move forward. Jeremy Tod Staeheli, 33, was declared mentally competent to stand trial on Thursday. He was arraigned the same day. He pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors allege Staeheli shot 34-year-old Brandt Stewart once in the head last December on an old logging road near Skykomish.

Just before sunrise on Dec. 23, a hiker reportedly found Stewart’s body, his hands still in his pockets. A single spent 9 mm shell casing was on the ground nearby. The shooter was nowhere to be found.

King County sheriff’s detectives found Staeheli a week later, at a hotel in northern California, after he shared his whereabouts on Facebook. He was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Staeheli claimed he shot Stewart in self-defense, according to charging papers. According to him, they had gone on a drive and stopped on a forest road to find a place to go to the bathroom. Outside the car, Staeheli reported he turned around to see Stewart holding a knife in his hand. Staeheli reported that’s when he shot him.

Staeheli told authorities he knew Stewart from high school, and that they occasionally smoked methamphetamine together.

Initially, a pyschologist determined Staeheli was mentally unable to participate in a trial, according to court papers. He had paranoid and delusional thoughts, and possibly hallucinations, according to court papers. He at first denied an interview with doctors, saying that various federal agencies, including the Secret Service, could vouch for him and allow his release from jail. He claimed he was a Navy SEAL under constant surveillance by the CIA. During a previous stint in jail, he reportedly claimed he was an FBI-trained killer.

Despite his Facebook post, a psychologist noted there were no signs he was exaggerating or feigning his symptoms. They wrote he met criteria for schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, and possibly was affected by a traumatic brain injury from when he fell off a ladder in 2017. He also had a history of using methamphetamine, opiates and marijuana. During his stay at Western State, doctors prescribed him anti-psychotics and he appeared to gradually improve.

In June, a psychologist assessed Staeheli again and determined he could understand the charges against him and assist in his own defense. Staeheli reported he no longer believes he works for any government agencies, and the psychologist noted he had considerably fewer delusions.

A jury trial has not yet been scheduled.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; Twitter: @zachariahtb.

Talk to us

More in Local News

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Inslee: The president made me speed up teacher vaccinations

Here’s what’s happening on Day 54 of the 2021 session of the Washington Legislature.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee speaks with special ed Pre-K teacher Michelle Ling in her classroom at Phantom Lake Elementary School in Bellevue, Wash. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, Pool)
Governor: Educators are now eligible for coronavirus vaccine

“This should give educators more confidence,” Jay Inslee said. Other frontline workers could soon be next.

Frances McDormand in "Nomadland." (Searchlight Pictures) 20210304
Masked in a nearly empty theater, a movie outing at last

Just four of us were in the audience for a matinee showing of “Nomadland” at Stanwood Cinemas.

James Myles walks his 5-month-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi Ellie around Martha Lake Park on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 in Lynnwood, Washington. Myles entered Ellie into a contest called Americas Favorite Pet, where she's currently in 2nd place for her group. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Vote for Ellie: Fluffy corgi from Lynnwood vying for top dog

“Her Fluffiness” is competing to be America’s Favorite Pet. The contest raised $300,000 for PAWS last year.

A view of the courtyard leading to the main entrance of the new Stanwood High building on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020 in Stanwood, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Law gives Washington high school seniors leeway to graduate

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that can waive some requirements for students who were on track before the pandemic.

A Marysville Pilchuck football player sports a spear on his helmet as the Tomahawks took on Snohomish in the Wesco 3A Championship Friday evening at Quil Ceda Stadium on November 1, 2019. School district leaders may soon need to consider dropping Marysville Pilchuck High School’s mascot, the Tomahawks. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Should Marysville Pilchuck High drop the name ‘Tomahawks’?

A state bill would ban Native American mascots and symbols from schools — unless there is tribal permission.

Snohomish County Council delays education spending vote

The council is now slated to decide next week on the measure, which targets a pre-K learning gap.

Erin Staadecker (left-right) Jael Weinburg and Kaylee Allen with Rosie formed the Edmonds firm Creative Dementia Collective. The company helps memory care patients and care-givers by providing art, music and other creative therapies. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
This startup offers artful therapy for dementia patients

Creative Dementia Collective uses art and music to help them — and their caregivers.

Darlene Tanis sorts through book titles Thursday morning at the Everett Library on March 4, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Shrinking the ‘digital divide,’ area libraries slowly reopen

This week, services such as computer and Wi-Fi use — and even book-browsing — were reinstated.

Most Read