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Monday, February 26, 2024
Feb. 26, 2024

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Man found not guilty in domestic violence assault case

Judge rules he could not distinguish right from wrong due to psychotic episode

By , Columbian Local News Editor

A former Battle Ground man accused of repeatedly choking his wife was acquitted Thursday of second-degree domestic violence assault after a judge found him not guilty by reason of insanity.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Derek Vanderwood ruled that Rodman A. Widing, 38, was experiencing a psychotic episode at the time of the June 2015 attack, and therefore could not distinguish right from wrong.

Vanderwood said the circumstances of the case are tragic on many levels.

On June 14, 2015, Widing’s wife called 911 twice at about 12:30 a.m. and hung up. Emergency dispatchers called her back, and she whispered for help. About 15 minutes later, she called 911 again from a neighbor’s house and said she had been assaulted by her husband. She said Widing was running around naked looking for her and her children, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Superior Court.

Responding Clark County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the couple’s home, 30214 N.E. Lewisville Highway, where they found Widing being uncooperative. They said it appeared he was high on some type of drug, and he started running at a deputy saying, “Kill me, kill me,” the affidavit said. He then ran back toward the house, got on the ground, and started eating dirt and grass, court records state.

Deputies eventually detained Widing and took him to a hospital, where he was medicated for his aggressive behavior, according to court documents.

His wife also was taken to a hospital for her injuries. The prosecution said early in the case that the victim’s injuries were disturbing and that she was lucky to be alive.

She told deputies that Widing attacked her after she refused to smoke a substance from his vape pen, the affidavit states. He had been acting strange that weekend, she said, and she thought it was because he was smoking marijuana. Widing was animated and rambling about things that didn’t make sense, court records said.

At one point, Widing said that he was God and told his wife that she needed to smoke with him “so she could feel what he does. She needed to smoke it to understand him,” according to court documents. His wife said it appeared he was hallucinating.

Widing then grabbed her and tried to force her to smoke. When she refused and pushed him away, he threw her on a bed and began choking her, the affidavit said.

The prosecution later said that she escaped by climbing over a barbed wire fence with her children.

Multiple doctors who were called as expert witnesses for both the prosecution and defense agreed that Widing suffered a brief psychotic break. However, it is unclear what exactly caused it. The doctors provided different theories, including undiagnosed bipolar disorder — possibly coupled with Widing’s marijuana use — renal failure and copper toxicity.

Widing’s defense attorney, Steve Thayer, argued that although experts could not pinpoint a specific cause, his client’s marijuana use did not cause his psychosis. Medical records prove that Widing was experiencing renal failure at the time and had elevated levels of copper in his system, Thayer said.

Deputy Prosecutor Luka Vitasovic said he isn’t sold on those theories and thinks it’s more likely Widing suffered from untreated bipolar disorder. That finding is in line with evaluations conducted by Western State Hospital, he said.

However, he could not definitively say if Widing’s marijuana use played a significant role in his behavior, because the doctor did not indicate the probability of that. Regardless, Vitasovic agreed that Widing did not know right from wrong at the time. He argued that if the judge found Widing suffered from a mental defect that he be committed to Western State Hospital for further evaluation and treatment.

“He needs to recognize this is an issue and address it so we aren’t back here again in the future,” Vitasovic said. “There’s definitely a concern for safety.”

Thayer did not dispute the prosecution’s concerns and agreed that Widing would report to Western State Hospital.

Widing will turn himself in to the hospital after the holidays. In the meantime, he will remain on supervised release.