RICHLAND, Wash. — The gunman accused of shooting two men inside the Richland Fred Meyer store on Feb. 7 needs mental-health treatment before he can be tried for murder and attempted murder, a judge agrees.
Court proceedings against Aaron Christopher Kelly, 40, have been on hold since Feb. 23, when a judge ordered him sent to Eastern State Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, the Tri-City Herald reported.
Kelly was arrested on Interstate 90 on the day of the shooting.
Hospital evaluators said Kelly was not mentally competent to help in his defense, his attorney Michael Vander Sys told Superior Court Judge David Petersen on Wednesday.
Petersen signed an order to keep Kelly at the hospital until he is deemed competent. Defense attorneys and prosecutors are at odds about his medical treatment plan.
Hospital officials want to treat Kelly using medication, but his lawyers object. A special hearing will be scheduled to debate the issue. No matter the outcome, Kelly is expected to appear in court on Sept. 21 for a check on his status. Both Benton County prosecutors and defense attorneys are asking that a specific judge be assigned to handle the case going forward.
Kelly has yet to enter a plea to the charges of murder and attempted murder. His attorneys have fought the lengthy delay, calling it a violation of his due-process rights.