A mentally ill woman who has twice attacked strangers, trying to set one on fire and partially blinding the second with a butcher knife, is up for review for release from a highly secure ward at Western State Hospital.

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A mentally ill woman who twice has attacked strangers, trying to set one on fire and blinding the second with a butcher knife, is up for review for release from a highly secure ward at Western State Hospital.

Marilyn Walker, 49, was arrested in July 2006 after stabbing Maritza Dowe, an administrative assistant at a Public Health — Seattle & King County clinic in downtown Seattle, in an unprovoked attack. At the time, Walker was a schizophrenic client who had come to the clinic for a dental appointment.

In April 2007, Walker was found not guilty of attempted first-degree murder by reason of insanity and committed indefinitely to the mental hospital. Walker admitted to stabbing Dowe and told a judge at the time that “this is the only way I can get into a hospital.”

Last month, Western State Hospital filed a letter with King County Superior Court seeking Walker’s “conditional release.” In the letter, three health-care providers wrote that Walker has been taking her medications, cooperating with treatment and “seems genuinely and painfully aware of her need to prevent penned up anger and/or potential future violence,” the letter said.

The medical experts are asking that Walker remain at the hospital, but given greater freedom by living in less-restrictive housing.

King County prosecutors said Walker will appear before a King County Superior Court judge to determine whether she is fit for release from the more secure ward. Dan Donohoe, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said they will push to have Walker remain in the secure ward.

Donohoe said a hearing will be held this spring. In the meantime, he said, the Prosecutor’s Office will have its own mental-health expert evaluate Walker.

Dowe, on Friday, said she will fight to keep Walker where she is.

“I am against that. She has been there just five years,” said Dowe, 54, of Burien. “I just can’t believe it. She is a danger to me and everybody else.”

Dowe said she is stunned Walker’s case would be up for review so soon.

However, Kris Flowers, a spokeswoman for Western State Hospital, said patients can petition for their release at any point during their treatment. Flowers declined to talk about Walker specifically, but she said that patients lobbying for release must go through several tiers of review — first by staffers at Western State, then by the courts — before they are freed to live either in the community or in less-secure housing at the hospital.

Dowe, who in 2009 was awarded more than $5 million in a settlement with Seattle-based Community Psychiatric Clinic, the nonprofit agency that was monitoring Walker’s mental health, said she was not able to work after the attack. Though blind and still under psychiatric care, Dowe considers herself fortunate she wasn’t killed.

“If she’s released, maybe someone else won’t be as lucky,” Dowe said.

According to charging papers, Walker entered the Public Health — Seattle & King County clinic on Fourth Avenue around 8:15 a.m. for a dental appointment.

After filling out a form, she approached Dowe’s desk, spun her chair around and stabbed Dowe repeatedly in the chest, abdomen, face and eyes.

The attack left Dowe blind in one eye and with limited vision in the other eye. After several surgeries, she lost sight in both eyes.

Walker had been released from Western State and was on behavior-altering medication when the attack happened. She had been charged with assault in 2001 after she allegedly doused a tax preparer at H&R Block with gasoline and tried to set him ablaze.

Walker was also found not guilty by reason of insanity in that case and was committed to Western State Hospital.

Information from Seattle Times archives

is included in this report.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com.