OCEAN PARK — Gerald Wayne Bartlett, an 80-year-old Ocean Park man, was arrested last week after allegedly attempting to murder his wife.
Bartlett reportedly suffers from severe dementia, schizophrenia and other health issues. The incident occurred soon after mental health professionals evaluated him at Ocean Beach Hospital and sent him home in a cab.
Investigators say Bartlett’s alleged mental illness may have been a factor in the stabbing, but they are also investigating other possibilities.
Just before 6 a.m. on Sept. 2, Janet C. Bartlett, 72, locked herself in a bathroom and called 911, saying her husband had stabbed her in the throat. According to a probable cause statement, she was not breathing normally and “blood was everywhere.”
Medical and police responders found Gerald Bartlett lying on the living room floor of his house in the 29000 block of K Street. He was alert, but unable to get up. According to the investigating deputy, “He was covered in blood on his face, neck, both hands and arms and robe.”
When asked what happened, Bartlett, who had been treated and released earlier that night for an issue with a catheter and dementia symptoms, allegedly said, “I tried to murder my wife.” Bartlett allegedly explained that he had stabbed her in the neck with a kitchen knife because three agents in suits had confronted him at the hospital and told him he had to kill his wife.
The investigating deputy found the knife lying underneath the couch.
According to the deputy, Bartlett “was not making much sense as he told the story.”
Both husband and wife were taken by ambulance to OBH. Janet Bartlett suffered a one-inch laceration to her throat that punctured her windpipe. She was later transported to a Portland hospital for further treatment.
Bartlett was evaluated and subsequently arrested and booked into Pacific County Jail on suspicion of first-degree attempted murder with domestic violence. He is being held on $2 million bail.
He was in a wheelchair when corrections officers brought him into the courtroom for a Sept. 7 hearing in Pacific County Superior Court. With an IV port still taped to his arm, rumpled hair and a scruffy beard, he appeared frail and withdrawn.
Bartlett’s court-assigned defense attorney, David Hatch, said his client might not be fit to stand trial. According to Hatch, an attempt to talk with Bartlett at the jail “did not go well,” and jailers said Bartlett’s behavior while in custody suggests that he is not mentally stable.
“I think we need to have, at minimum, a competency evaluation,” Hatch said. He also asked the court to consider placing Bartlett in a facility better equipped to meet his medical needs. “I know Mr. Bartlett would certainly like to go anywhere besides where he is being held right now.”
Questions of competence
Deputy Prosecutor Don Richter agreed that Bartlett should undergo a competency evaluation before the case proceeds much further.
Typically, local mental health professionals go to the jail to assess defendants who may not be mentally fit to stand trial. Their goal is to determine whether defendants are capable of understanding and participating in court proceedings. If the evaluator thinks a defendant needs a more in-depth assessment or treatment and re-evaluation, the defendant is usually sent to Western State Hospital, the state-run facility charged with serving mentally ll criminal defendants.
It could take several months for doctors share their conclusions about Bartlett’s competency. The next hearing in Bartlett’s case will take place on Sept. 21.