Crime

Bellingham man accused of murdering mom, leaving her in Lake Samish declared competent

Bellingham man accused of killing his mother appears at competency hearing

Matthew Gregory, a 30-year-old Bellingham man accused of killing his mother and leaving her body in Lake Samish in July, appeared in Whatcom County Superior Court on Thursday, Aug. 23, for his competency hearing.
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Matthew Gregory, a 30-year-old Bellingham man accused of killing his mother and leaving her body in Lake Samish in July, appeared in Whatcom County Superior Court on Thursday, Aug. 23, for his competency hearing.

The Bellingham man accused of stabbing his mother multiple times, wrapping her in a blanket and leaving her body in Lake Samish in July 2018 has been declared competent to stand trial.

Matthew Downey Gregory, 30, is facing a second-degree murder charge for the death of his 64-year-old mom, Frances Gregory, according to Whatcom County Superior Court records. Gregory was declared competent at hearing July 11.

His jury trial is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 26 and he is currently in the Whatcom County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

Gregory’s public defense attorney Angela Anderson first raised competency concerns regarding Gregory in early August 2018 after she noticed he had some confusion about his case. An evaluation was performed and Gregory was declared competent to stand trial Aug. 23.

A little more than two months later, on Nov. 1, Gregory was declared incompetent to stand trial and was sent to Eastern State Hospital, a state psychiatric hospital southwest of Spokane, in early December for 90 days of mental health treatment.

He was given another competency evaluation and was again declared incompetent to stand trial Feb. 28. He was ordered to complete another 90 days of treatment.

Gregory had previously been scheduled to go to Western State Hospital, Washington’s largest state psychiatric facility in Lakewood, when he was first declared incompetent, but due to a long waiting period to receive services, Gregory was allowed to go to Eastern.

State law requires a forensic patient, or a patient who is sent by the criminal courts to receive services, be transferred to a facility within seven days of the treatment order being signed. That deadline is rarely met.

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Matthew Gregory, left, appears in Whatcom County Superior Court at his competency hearing in August 2018. Gregory is charged with one count of second-degree murder in the death of his mother Francis Gregory. Staff The Bellingham Herald file

According to data from the state Department of Social and Health Services, as of June 28, the average wait time for a forensic patient to receive competency restoration services at Western is 37.9 days, with Eastern having an average wait time of 31.4 days. Western’s wait time is down from 45.2 days in November 2018, but Eastern’s is up from 20.4, according to the data.

There are currently two people in the Whatcom County Jail who are waiting to receive services, and another eight who are currently receiving services, according to Wendy Jones, Chief Corrections Deputy with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.

In a competency evaluation report dated June 4, a licensed psychologist noted that Gregory’s clinical presentation for his mental illness was quite unusual. The psychologist wrote that Gregory describes his hallucinations in a manner that is “extremely atypical” and that he reported having control over them.

Gregory was given four different tests, including one to determine whether he was feigning or making efforts to portray symptoms of mental illness. The test determined he was not, but Gregory also did not report symptoms of mental illness on certain testing instruments, court records show.

Gregory “vacillates between describing his experiences as symptoms and denying that he has a mental illness,” court records state. “This vacillation makes it difficult to interpret the cause for such atypical presentation.”

Gregory is able to manage his symptoms so no impairment to his daily functioning is evident, the psychologist wrote. Gregory may have developed insight into ongoing delusions he has, but may not be reporting them due to the “fears related to the seriousness of his future legal proceedings,” the court records state.

The psychologist wrote that Gregory demonstrated an understanding of the criminal justice system, and was able to discuss his case in a logical manner, court records show. Gregory has the capacity to recognize delusional beliefs and set them aside, and at this time said he was capable and willing to do so to participate in his defense, the psychologist’s report states.

Gregory’s case is one of seven current pending murder cases in Whatcom County.

Reporter Denver Pratt joined The Bellingham Herald in 2017 and covers courts and criminal and social justice. She has worked in Montana, Florida and Virginia.
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