Testimony: Suspect in chief killing not psychotic

ST. HELENS — A man accused of killing the Rainier police chief may act strangely, but he's not psychotic or mentally ill, a forensic psychologist testified.

Defendant Daniel Butts, 22, of Kalama, Wash., has no diagnosable mental condition that would keep him from helping his defense lawyers, Dr. Brooke Howard said Wednesday during a competence hearing.

"People can exhibit erratic behavior and not be mentally ill," said Howard, who works at the Oregon state mental hospital.

Lawyers for Butts countered with a list of behaviors that include refusing to speak for months and standing naked in his cell.

The hearing continued Thursday.

Butts is charged with aggravated murder in the Jan. 5 shooting of Rainier police Chief Ralph Painter, who had responded to a report of a suspicious person at a car stereo shop.

The indictment said Butts took Painter's pistol and shot him in the head. Butts is also accused of firing at other officers and at a nearby church.

If he is declared mentally impaired, he would be sent to the state mental hospital for treatment until he's deemed fit to stand trial.

At the hearing, Butts was quiet and composed. He sipped water, read a psychology textbook and at times put his head on the desk. He now has a full beard and mustache.

Defense attorney Patrick Sweeney said Butts speaks only a few words now, after staying mute from March through November.

The defense lawyers said that in the days before the shooting, Butts masturbated in front of his mother, refused to bathe and struck a beloved dog.

In confinement, he also went on a hunger strike that led to a brief hospitalization, exposed his buttocks to guards, was treated for swollen legs after he stood for hours with his hands in a prayer position, and smeared blood from his nose on cell walls, his lawyers said.

Howard said many of Butts' actions are intended to create a sense of control in his life and delay his trial. By not talking, she said, he avoids answering questions about possible drug use and other aspects of his history.

Sweeney asked whether the likelihood that Butts is psychotic was higher because other family members have psychotic conditions. Howard said someone with a first-generation family member with schizophrenia is 10 times more likely to develop the disorder, but she doesn't believe Butts is schizophrenic.

Asked if his premature birth, his mother's use of lithium during pregnancy and a head injury from a 2008 car crash could have caused him to develop mental illness, Howard said she found no evidence of that.

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