Seattle police have arrested a 48-year-old man with a long history of paranoid schizophrenia in connection with the New Year's Eve stabbing...
Seattle police have arrested a 48-year-old man with a long history of paranoid schizophrenia in connection with the New Year’s Eve stabbing death of Shannon Harps on Capitol Hill.
DNA samples from James Anthony Williams, who is currently under Department of Corrections supervision, matched that found at the crime scene, Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer said this afternoon.
He said Williams and Harps did not know each other: “They had no previous contact, to our knowledge.”
Williams was being interviewed by detectives tonight, and was expected to be booked later tonight on suspicion of murder, police said. Once detectives finish their investigation, they’ll forward the case to prosecutors for possible charges.
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The Seattle Times generally does not name suspects until they have been charged. But Williams is being named because of the high-profile nature of the slaying, his criminal background and police statements about the DNA match.
Homicide detectives had been investigating Williams since New Year’s Eve, when they interviewed him near the site of the slaying. Williams voluntarily provided a DNA sample that night, police said, and detectives went looking for him when that sample later matched DNA found at the crime scene. By that time, he was already in jail on an unrelated probation-violation charge.
“Hopefully the citizens can feel safe in the city because we believe we have the person in custody,” Kimerer said.
Williams, an Arkansas native, was convicted in King County in 1995 for first-degree assault with a deadly weapon, and served more than 11 years in prison before being released in January 2007.
He continued to run afoul of the law. In March, two months after his release, Williams was charged in Seattle Municipal Court with three counts of harassment. The cases were referred to King County’s mental-health court, and it is unclear what happened as a result. He was later charged with harassment in September and was convicted on that charge, according to the Seattle City Attorney’s office.
Williams was on medication and was receiving care at Sound Mental Health, according to DOC records. He last reported to DOC officers on Dec. 31.
In December, the home address listed for the suspect was on Summit Avenue, just blocks from Harps’ condominium, where she was found dead.
Williams has a severe history of mental illness dating to age 16. He was first diagnosed with schizophrenia at 20, and has been involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals in Texas and Arkansas, according to psychiatric evaluations filed in his 1995 case. He resisted medications after claiming he was turned into a monkey after receiving Haldol at a Texas hospital.
In 1989, he told a psychiatrist in Arkansas that, “God tells me to ‘put people up’ which means he wants me to shoot bad people.” He claimed that the devil appeared to him at nights as a “mean-looking” human, and that there was a “master plan” for his life and that he is “like a robot.”
Police said that when Williams’ DNA test came back with a match, they went looking for him and found he was already in custody.
He had been arrested last week by DOC officers because he missed a required mental-health appointment; he has been in King County Jail since then.
Harps, 31, a Sierra Club worker, was killed outside her East Howell Street building shortly after 7 p.m. Dec. 31.
Brady Montz, a friend of Harps’ and the Seattle chair of the Sierra Club, described her as one of the “best people” he had ever known. He said she was smart, but not showy and was committed to doing the right things for the right reasons.
Montz said he was relieved to hear that an arrest had been made and was not surprised to learn that police now believe she was killed by a stranger.
“I would have been surprised if it was someone she knew,” he said.
Authorities had previously focused on a 29-year-old man who lived near Harps. However, on Wednesday, sources close to the investigation said that man’s DNA did not match DNA collected at the crime scene.