A murder case involving the beating death of a 71-year-old Sequim woman is “inching toward a resolution,” Benjamin G. Bonner’s attorney said.
Bonner, 19, of Bainbridge Island is charged with second-degree murder and other crimes for allegedly beating Cynthia Little to death with a fireplace poker, killing her dog and taking her vehicle in May 2017.
His attorney, John Hayden of Clallam Public Defender, told a Clallam County Superior Court judge on Jan. 18 that a resolution was anticipated.
“My understanding is we’re pretty close to finishing this,” Hayden said.
A Feb. 25 trial date was stricken last week. A resolve/reset hearing was scheduled for Feb. 8.
The Bonner case has been delayed for the past 20 months for mental health evaluations and mental health reports.
Faces multiple charges
Bonner is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree animal cruelty and first-degree robbery.
He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in January 2018 after undergoing competency restoration at Western State Hospital.
Barry Ward, a psychiatrist with the Office of Forensic Mental Health Services, concluded in a Nov. 14 report that Bonner had paranoid schizophrenia, marijuana use disorder and was “acutely psychotic” at the time of Little’s murder.
Ward determined that evidence of legal sanity was mixed and should be left to a jury.
Clallam County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sarah Woolman, who was filling in for lead attorney Michele Devlin, reported Jan. 18 that she had obtained information from Western State Hospital that her colleague needed to consider a resolution in the Bonner case.
“We’re able to kind of proceed on our own with some next steps, and those would be meeting with the victim’s family and meeting with Mr. Hayden,” Woolman told Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour.
“At this point, I just want to note for the record the trial in February is likely not to be going.”
Said Hayden: “Oh, I don’t think it’s even close to possible now,” referring to a two- to three-week murder trial next month.
“And quite frankly, I think we’re, I’d say, inching towards a resolution here.”
Bonner is being held in the Clallam County jail on $1.5 million bail.
The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office said Bonner beat Little to death with the metal fireplace poker as Little repeatedly told him “I love you.”
Little was described in court papers as a family friend and grandmother figure to Bonner.
The charges against Bonner carry vulnerable victim, deliberate cruelty and deadly weapon enhancements that could extend the length of his sentence were he to be convicted at trial.
Rob Ollikainen is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. He can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsula dailynews.com.