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Accused Kennewick murderer doesn't believe wife is dead. Will he be able to stand trial?

Tri-City Herald 11/20/2022 Cameron Probert, Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

Nov. 19—A 73-year-old Kennewick man isn't mentally healthy enough to stand trial for his wife's murder, and it's uncertain if he can be treated.

While it's clear from an Eastern State Hospital report that Leroy N. Martin isn't currently able to help his attorney, it's less clear how much treatment will be able to help.

Martin faces one count of second-degree murder after he allegedly attacked his wife, Susan Martin, 66, on Aug. 30.

Legal proceedings have been on hold since Sept. 6 when his attorney asked for state evaluators to determine if he could understand the court proceedings and help his attorney.

According to two years of medical records, he has a history of delusional thoughts that seem to have not been treated, state psychologist Brooke England.

Those thoughts, including believing his wife is secretly alive, will get in the way of helping his attorney, she said in the 11-page report.

If the problem is an untreated, unspecified schizophrenic disorder, then treatment may work, England said. But if Leroy Martin is suffering from dementia, restoration efforts are likely to be fruitless.

She recommended trying to treat him, but "should appropriate medical care, abstinence for mind-altering substances and medication management of his psychosis fail, it is likely Mr. Martin would be not restorable."

Judge Joe Burrowes ordered a 90-day stay at the Medical Lake facility.

The process may take a little longer though. As part of the treatment, Eastern State Hospital officials want to be able to force Leroy Martin to take medication. A hearing on whether they can do that hasn't been scheduled yet.

Aug. 30 murder

Susan Martin was found unconscious about 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 30 in the bathroom of her apartment by her daughter.

The Martins lived in an outbuilding in the backyard of 3904 W. Seventh Ave.

Leroy Martin also was at the apartment at the time and remained sitting on the couch while his daughter and her boyfriend pulled Susan Martin out of the bathroom and started CPR.

When the first officer arrived, he found Susan Martin didn't have a pulse and took over efforts to resuscitate her. Kennewick medics also tried, but weren't able to revive her.

They reported she had two stab wounds, and they spotted a knife with blood on it. Police officers also noticed a frying pan near her.

Family members told investigators they believed Leroy Martin has the onset of dementia and suffers from bouts of paranoia, according to court documents.

He believed his wife was having an affair with a neighbor and had previously nailed the door shut so she couldn't leave, according to court documents.

Investigators were told that the relationship had been turbulent recently, including arguing and screaming and that he called her names.

"They report Susan has lived in fear of Leroy, and a family friend had told them that she believed that Leroy was going to kill Susan," court documents stated.

After the stabbing, Leroy Martin told police his wife stole a valuable coin from him. He said his son-in-law had given him a 1943 penny worth $1.7 million and that it was missing.

"The defendant stated that he possibly got carried away and that 'stealing from me after 47 years of marriage, I guess I snapped. I don't know,'" according to court documents.

History of problems

Leroy Martin has spent most of the last 30 years living in Washington state after growing up in Bakersfield, Calif., and living in Eugene, Ore.

The retired mechanic was married to Susan Martin for 46 years, and had three children, according to the report. He lived with his wife in the outbuilding on the Seventh Avenue property. His two adult daughters and adult grandchildren live in the nearby house.

While his mental health history was limited, England found information reported by healthcare providers indicating that he had problems as early as 2020.

Medical records show that his frontal lobes were shrinking, which lead to a certain type of dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While doctors have seen shrinking in his brain, cognitive tests don't show that he has dementia.

The reports also note that he was suffering paranoia as early as December 2020, when he claimed to find anti-seizure medication in his coffee cup.

Other reports say he had delusions of infidelity, his phone and computer being tampered with, having items stolen from him and having secret knowledge of illegal government activities.

While he did receive some treatment, it was inconsistent, according to the report.

Those issues, as well as a dependence on marijuana, continued for the two years leading up to the murder. He also reported having a dependence on opioid medication. Martin had significant medical issues, including a history of cancer and partial paralysis from a gunshot wound years ago.

His family did talk about trying to find an assisted living facility for him in 2021, but the records don't say why they weren't able to place him in one.

Eastern Hospital

When Leroy Martin was evaluated at Eastern State Hospital, he told evaluators that he had auditory and visual hallucinations, including believing people are shooting or stabbing him.

"Among the fixed false beliefs he experiences include being able to supernaturally connect with others at distances through his cochlear implant," the initial evaluation said. "He mentioned knowing that a person or persons with guns were going to shoot him in jail."

He told evaluators that he didn't believe he was going to prison because he thought his wife was still alive. Once he was able to show proof of it, he would be let go.

While he was prescribed medicine at Eastern State Hospital, staff found he had stashed a number of pills in his bed.

Martin showed clear symptoms of a mental disease, it remained unclear what was causing it. England said there was an incomplete picture from his past, showing he was having problems, but it wasn't clear if it was from dementia or some other mental issue.

In addition, there are not any records that he had been treated for his psychosis.

"To complicate the clinical picture at the time of these past assessments, Mr. Martin had been engaged in heavy use of marijuana and opioids as well has having suffered various medical illnesses that may have had an impact on his cognition as well."

This story was originally published November 19, 2022 5:00 AM.

(c)2022 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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