A Bellingham man aimed a .22-caliber rifle at a roommate and set her clothes on fire before a brief standoff with sheriff’s deputies at his home in the Marietta area, according to charges read in court Wednesday.
Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies believe Timothy Jay Newman, 45, was having a mental episode when a housemate arrived home on Tuesday afternoon. He was burning her red pair of shorts and a sweatshirt in a fire pit on an outside deck, and the fire spread to the wooden planks of the deck, according to a prosecutor’s statement in court. The flames were extinguished before they could spread.
Newman accused the woman of trying to poison his food. He grabbed a rifle and pointed it at the woman “several times, as he continued yelling at her,” according to the summary of deputies’ reports. She called police around 3:45 p.m.
A witness, who arrived at the home with the woman, told deputies he saw Newman yelling and pointing the gun at the woman. Later, in the early evening, deputies convinced Newman to exit the home, without further incident.
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He was booked into the Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of first-degree assault with a firearm and second-degree arson. He had no prior felony convictions.
In court Wednesday, his parents told a Superior Court commissioner that Newman has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, with psychotic episodes where he needed to be hospitalized for days or weeks in 2008, 2011 and 2016.
“One way or the other, there’s something going on with him,” said his defense attorney, Adrian Madrone. “I think the reality is if he remains in custody, the best-case scenario is that he sort of stays where he’s at (mentally) right now. That might be wishful thinking. I think the more realistic probability is that if he remains in custody, he’s probably going to go further downhill.”
Superior Court Commissioner David Thorn set bail at $50,000. The Newman family owns the house on Bayon Road. He was letting the woman live there. Because of a no-contact order, he can’t go back until she can arrange to move out.