Judge orders mental evaluation for defendant in hammer killing

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: June 12, 2012, 4:57 PM

 

The defense attorney for a Vancouver woman accused of bludgeoning her husband with a hammer requested a mental evaluation to determine whether she’s fit to stand trial.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Dan Stahnke on Tuesday signed an order for Donna Rae Williams to be evaluated at Western State Hospital near Tacoma. The order will postpone Williams’ arraignment, which had been set for Thursday.

Williams, who is charged with first-degree murder of her husband of 30 years, Mark Williams, will be evaluated as to whether she understands the charges and can assist in her own defense. The evaluation was requested by defense attorney David Kurtz.

Competency is different than insanity. Competency determines whether a defendant can be charged criminally and stand trial, while insanity is a defense decided by a judge or a jury as to whether the defendant understood right from wrong at the time of the event.

Prosecutors allege the 51-year-old woman beat her husband with a hammer on May 14, the day after Williams claimed her husband punched her in the left eye.

“Donna said that the following morning, she woke up early and looked in the mirror. When she did, she saw the injury to her eye and ‘became frustrated,’” according to the probable cause affidavit filed in court.

She said she went to retrieve a hammer in the garage and struck her husband while he slept. Williams said she believed he was still alive after hitting him several times, according to court documents.

She said she then walked to a convenience store, and when she returned home, Williams said her husband was still breathing, so she struck him in the head again, according to documents.

Williams calmly reported the killing to 911 more than two weeks later, on the afternoon of May 30. Sheriff’s investigators found her husband’s body in the back bedroom, beneath blood-soaked bedding.

Williams was arrested and is currently being held in the Clark County Jail on $750,000 bail.

A hearing for a judge to review reports from psychologists was set for July 12.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.