Arcan Cetin was accused of opening fire with a Ruger .22-caliber rifle on Sept. 23, 2016, killing five people. He was found unresponsive in his Snohomish County Jail cell on Sunday night, dead from an apparent suicide.
More than a month ago, Arcan Cetin — the man accused of killing five people at the Cascade Mall in September — was moved from the Skagit County Jail to the lockup in Snohomish County at the request of his public defenders, according to a Skagit County spokeswoman.
The reason: Cetin had made legally compromising comments about his criminal case to fellow inmates, setting up the potential for a huge conflict of interest for his defense attorneys, said Bronlea Mishler, the county’s communications coordinator.
Many of those other inmates are also represented by the Skagit County Public Defender’s Office and potentially could have been called as state witnesses during Cetin’s trial on five counts of aggravated first-degree murder, Mishler said.
The transfer occurred on March 10.
Just before 7 p.m. Sunday, Cetin was found dead in his jail cell from an apparent suicide, according to Skagit County prosecutors. The 20-year-old, who has not been officially identified by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office, is believed to have hanged himself, according to prosecutors.
A phone call to defense attorney Wes Richards was not returned Monday.
Cetin is accused of opening fire in the Burlington mall’s Macy’s department store on Sept. 23. Four of the victims were killed outright, and the fifth was mortally wounded.
According to charges filed in January, Cetin used a Ruger .22-caliber rifle with a 25-round magazine. The shooting was captured on surveillance video.
Killed were Sarai Lara, 16, of Mount Vernon; Shayla Martin, 52, of Mount Vernon; Belinda Galde, 64, and her mother, 95-year-old Beatrice Dotson, both of Arlington; and Wilton “Chuck” Eagan, 61, of Lake Stevens.
According to court documents, Cetin told detectives that he had committed the killings.
A spokesman for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees jail operations, referred all questions about Cetin’s death to Skagit County prosecutors.
On Monday afternoon, the sheriff’s office issued a brief news release indicating the death of a 20-year-old inmate is being investigated by detectives assigned to the department’s Major Crimes Unit. The release does not identify Cetin by name.
Rosemary Kaholokula, Skagit County’s chief criminal deputy prosecutor, confirmed that Cetin died Sunday night but she didn’t know where Cetin had been housed in the jail. She also didn’t know whether he was on suicide watch, how often he was checked by jail staff, or what he used to hang himself.
Kaholokula acknowledged that Skagit County’s jail is ill-equipped to treat inmates with mental-health issues:
“We have a medical staff but as far as mental-health services, minimal to none,” she said.
Cetin’s stepfather, David Marshall, of Oak Harbor, declined to comment when reached by telephone Monday morning.
According to Kaholokula, Cetin had recently been evaluated by doctors at Western State Hospital, but she declined to divulge results of the evaluation since a report had not been entered with the court. Such reports are typically public records.
She said Cetin’s defense was looking to have Cetin evaluated by another mental-health expert and that a court hearing was scheduled for next week “to see where we stood on the competency issue.”
Now, though, Kaholokula will be filing a motion with the court to dismiss the charges against Cetin.
Acquaintances described Cetin as being socially awkward and troubled in high school, and say he was shunned for his vulgar behavior.
Cetin had attempted suicide by swallowing medication in November 2015 and was involuntarily committed at Fairfax Hospital, an inpatient psychiatric facility in Kirkland, according to court records. At the time, evaluators ranked Cetin as at risk for serious self-harm.
He was diagnosed with disruptive disorder, depression, anxiety and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Doctors prescribed medication, and he was also undergoing court-ordered mental-health counseling in the months before the shootings.
Court records from 2015 show mental-health professionals noted Cetin’s problems with impulse control and warned of his high recidivism risk if he failed to continue treatment.
The family of victim Chuck Eagan, in a statement to the Skagit Valley Herald, said they were shocked by Cetin’s death.
“We pray that the man repented to God before his death,” the statement said. “While this event puts to rest our fear of his release, we harbor no ill will towards Mr. Cetin or his family and pray for their comfort as we know all too well the pain of grief.”
Snohomish County has been sued in recent years over the deaths of jail inmates.
In 2015, the county paid $2.4 million to the family of a man who died from medical complications while in the Snohomish County Jail in July 2012.
Last year, the family of an Everett woman who committed suicide in the jail in 2014 filed a $5 million wrongful death and civil-rights claim against the county.
Thirteen inmates died in the Snohomish County Jail between 2010 and 2014, although many had been suffering from serious health problems, records show. In recent years, Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary has taken steps to address inmate deaths by refusing to house people for nonviolent misdemeanors or those with serious medical conditions, according to The (Everett) Herald.