After treatment, charges were laid again in 1993 for the murder of a teenager Bothell
EVERETT — After nearly a year and a half in a state mental hospital, murder charges were brought again this week against Alan Edward Dean, the suspect in the 1993 murder of Bothell teenager Melissa Lee.
In a case that had gone cold for nearly three decades, Dean, now 64, was arrested in connection with Lee’s death in July 2020 with the help of forensic genealogy research. A used cigarette butt linked Dean to the long unsolved murder of Lee, who was 15 when she died in April 1993. He was 35 at the time.
Last week, an Assistant State Attorney General wrote to Assistant Attorney Craig Matheson that Dean was being discharged from the state hospital. Matheson told the Daily Herald he was not given a reason for the release. And the move came just a month after an involuntary six-month commitment, Dean’s public defender said in court Thursday.
On Tuesday, the defendant was taken to Snohomish County Jail, where he remained on $2 million bond.
But that doesn’t mean he’ll now be fit to stand trial, Matheson said in an email. Prosecutors will likely still have to demonstrate that restoring skills could work.
“And if we get past that point, we’ll probably have to start the whole restorative process all over again,” Matheson wrote, “and see if doctors and pharmacology can make it competent.”
Dean appeared in court Thursday via video conference, sitting in a wheelchair. During the nearly 15-minute hearing, he appeared to be scratching his thumbs and crossing his arms. His defense attorney, Jon Scott, argued the case should be dropped because there was no sign his client might have the ability to stand trial.
“There must be a good faith basis that it’s either restored or restorable,” Scott said in court. “There is no information to support such a good faith basis.”
The jurisdictional issue is expected to be addressed in a court hearing later this month.
Lee disappeared in April 1993.
At around 9:30 p.m. on April 13, she had an uneventful call with her mother, according to the charges brought again in Snohomish County Superior Court. Everything seemed to be going well. But when the mother returned to their Bothell home on Filbert Road around 2am after a night out with her boyfriend, she found the place in disarray. The front door was open. The couch cushions in the living room were out of place. An ashtray, a glass of milk and a jar of peanuts were thrown on the ground. The room smelled of “ether”, the mother’s boyfriend told police.
The teenager had already fled, so her mother did not call the police at first, according to court documents. But the more time passed, the more she worried. At around 1:45 p.m., about 12 hours after returning home, she reported her daughter missing.
That same afternoon, passers-by found Lee’s body 50 feet below the Edgewater Creek Bridge on Mukilteo Boulevard.
The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that she had been strangled to death. Toxicology tests reportedly showed ethyl ether and heptane in his blood, according to the charges.
A search of Bothell’s home reportedly revealed Marlboro cigarettes and a lighter that did not belong to Lee, her mother or her mother’s boyfriend. Police also found a planner, according to court documents. In it, she wrote about meeting a man named “Michael” and provided a phone number for him. A detective called the number. Dean picked up.
Dean allegedly later told a detective that he had met Lee on an anonymous phone chat line the previous month. He reported using Michael’s name on the chat line. He said he saw Lee twice in March. On one occasion, he picked her and her sister up from their home in Filbert Road and drove them to Alderwood Shopping Center and her flat. Another time, Dean and Lee went to the house of one of Lee’s friends.
In his reports to the police, Dean said he never had sexual contact with Lee and was unaware that she was dead. He did not remember where he was on April 13 or 14, according to court documents.
That was the last time law enforcement would contact him about the case. Until 2019.
A female genealogist built family trees until she was able to identify the source of DNA found at the 1993 crime scene. This same technique led to breakthroughs in the killer’s case of Golden State and the 1987 murder of a young Canadian couple in Snohomish County.
In January of that year, the sheriff’s office sent a sample of Lee’s stained underwear to Parabon NanoLabs. The following month, forensic genealogist CeCe Moore told detectives that Dean was a potential suspect on the new charges.
Investigators then had to obtain a sample of Dean’s DNA to test against evidence from the crime scene. He smoked cigarettes outside his Bothell home, but almost always brought cigarette butts back inside with him.
On April 21, 2020, he broke his pattern. He put out his cigarette and threw the cigarette butt on the side of the road.
An undercover detective picked him up and sent him to a state crime lab for testing. There was an apparent DNA match for the stain on Lee’s clothing, according to court documents. The suspect has been arrested.
During court appearances, Dean rambled incoherently. At his arraignment after being charged with first degree murder in August 2020, Dean declined to identify himself. A judge ordered him to submit to a mental health assessment when he failed to cooperate at another hearing.
Dean had a limited psychiatric history, a psychologist noted in a report last year. Between 2007 and 2009, however, he received services in King County in connection with a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
The psychologist recommended a declaration of incompetence in October 2020. Finding that Dean lacked the capacity to understand the nature of the proceedings against him or to assist in his defense, a judge ordered competence restoration treatment 90 days at Western State Hospital.
In the hospital, Dean refused to take medication and was unwilling to participate in treatment, according to court records. But after a doctor argued the chances of his symptoms improving were “extremely slim” if he didn’t take his medication, another judge ordered they could be given involuntarily.
A second 90-day restoration period was ordered in January last year. Around this time, Dean wrote a series of letters to the Superior Court judges in which he asserted that he was not an American citizen.
“I cannot make any LEGAL decision on any claim or charge you make or any question you ask,” the defendant wrote in January 2021. “I decline all offers of contract and do not yield to any presumptions. I am not responsible for any errors or omissions made by the offeror or known or unknown offeror partners. I do not agree to any procedure that is contrary to my best interests. I hereby invoke all maxims of equity and appoint the court of equity as trustee. »
In April 2021, Superior Court Judge Richard Okrent signed an order binding Dean indefinitely. Doctors at Western State Hospital wrote that Dean remained incompetent to stand trial and that further treatment was unlikely to change that, according to court documents.
With that, the murder charge against Dean was dismissed.
Prosecutors could bring charges again if a judge deems him fit to stand trial in the future. There was no further court filing in the high-profile case for nearly 11 months, until Monday.