Court evaluating Blaine man’s competency to stand trial for first-degree murder


Whatcom County Superior Court is currently evaluating whether a 77-year-old Blaine man is competent to stand trial for first-degree murder after allegedly shooting his neighbor last October.

Judge Evan Jones presided over a March 26 hearing in which defense and prosecuting attorneys interviewed two forensic psychologists who had separately evaluated the defendant, Wayne Harold Mahar Sr., and came to similar conclusions that he had an unspecified neurological disorder that likely included dementia, lacked requisite capabilities and his cognitive impairment was unlikely to improve. Another hearing is scheduled for the afternoon of Friday, March 29, where the attorneys will give closing arguments before Jones makes a decision on how the case will proceed. 

The defense attorneys said Mahar could not assist in the case and did not understand the legal proceedings against him, while the prosecutor argued Mahar did not meet case law standards to be considered incompetent and could improve with medication.

Mahar attended the court proceeding remotely from Western State Hospital.

“This is not completely clear cut,” said Alexander Patterson, one of the forensic evaluators. “In the early stages of dementia, people will go up and down depending on the time of day or their stress. It can depend on all sorts of factors. I agree that, at times, he provided adequate responses but the broader issue here is somebody who cannot reliably maintain a basic orientation for their situation.” 

The incident

On October 4, 2023, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) and Blaine Police Department responded to a report of a shooting at the Maple Leaf Mobile Home Park in Blaine. Charging documents state a neighbor called 911 after hearing a shot and, upon going outside to investigate, saw Mahar with a shotgun and their other neighbor, 67-year-old Vincent Reames, lying face down on his own property. Reames was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Mahar allegedly told both the witness and Mahar’s wife separately that he had shot Reames, claiming to his wife that it was in self-defense, according to charging documents. 

Another neighbor reported to detectives that Mahar had told her the day before he was going to kill Reames due to threats but the neighbor stated she never saw Reames threaten or harass the Mahar family. 

In an interview with a WCSO detective, Mahar said he was sitting on his deck when Reames began verbally harassing him but was unable to provide details on Reames’ behavior. Charging documents allege Mahar told the detective he wanted to kill Reames and Reames “deserved to be dead.” Mahar was later described as “jovial” during the interview. 

WCSO had responded to at least four separate neighborhood disputes between Mahar and Reames since November 2021, but none of those resulted in criminal activity, according to previous reporting from The Northern Light

Mahar said he had one shot of alcohol before the incident. Four hours after his arrest, charging documents allege Mahar had a blood alcohol level of .189 percent, over twice the state’s legal limit for driving under the influence.

WCSO deputies booked Mahar into Whatcom County Jail the afternoon of the incident in lieu of a $2 million appearance bond.

Competency concerns

One of Mahar’s public defenders, Jane Boman, said during the March 26 hearing that the defense counsel immediately had concerns regarding Mahar’s competency. The defense requested Patterson, a clinical psychologist, review Mahar’s records and complete a competency evaluation at Whatcom County Jail. 

Mahar told Patterson during his interviews that he was honorably discharged from the Air Force after serving from ages 17 to 21 and spent a few years as a police officer. Mahar’s wife told Patterson that Mahar received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder from the Department of Veteran Affairs early in their marriage.

Medical records in the evaluation showed Mahar had a seizure in December 2022 and hospital staff noted Mahar likely had an “underlying cognitive impairment.”

Mahar’s wife told Patterson that Mahar began showing signs of cognitive problems about one year before the arrest and his decline was accelerating in jail. Whatcom County Jail staff noted examples of cognitive deficits, such as occasionally thinking he was in a military base, and described him as “in and out of awareness of his current situation.”

Patterson said he determined Mahar was not trying to fake a cognitive problem after testing him for memory malingering.

Mahar appeared to have a factual understanding of the legal process, such as knowing his charge, the potential sentence if guilty and roles of personnel within the courtroom, according to the first evaluation. However, Patterson cited concern about Mahar’s rational understanding of the proceedings against him and ability to assist his attorneys. Patterson wrote in his report that he believed Mahar’s condition would not improve with treatment and he would never be able to stand trial.

The court ordered Mahar to undergo an inpatient evaluation from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) on February 16 and Mahar was admitted to Western State Hospital on March 1.

DSHS forensic evaluator Roman Lokhmotov largely came to the same conclusions as Patterson upon finishing Mahar’s second evaluation March 15.

However, Lokhmotov’s opinion differed slightly from Patterson’s in that Lokhmotov believed Mahar didn’t demonstrate a factual understanding of the legal process while Patterson’s earlier evaluation found Mahar had an adequate factual understanding. Patterson said during the hearing he wasn’t sure if that part of his assessment would still hold true if Mahar had declined since their interviews.

“Mr. Mahar did have some knowledge of the general legal procedure, for example he was able to give a basic definition of a trial. He was aware of his charge and knew it was a felony,” Lokhmotov said in the hearing. “There were other components of factual understanding that weren’t sufficient … He didn’t seem to retain corrective feedback by the end of the interview.”

Lokhmotov said he had some knowledge of the first evaluation’s conclusions before performing his evaluation, which prompted him to perform a different memory measure.

Both evaluators told the court that Mahar appeared to be experiencing confabulation, a common disorder in dementia where the brain makes up memories to fill gaps in one’s memory without the intention of deceit.

Senior deputy prosecuting attorney Benjamin Pratt rejected the defense’s concerns, saying there was no genuine doubt to Mahar’s competency as he was never diagnosed with a serious mental illness, understood the legal proceedings and could clearly respond to information. Pratt said Mahar displayed better competence than prior case law and that Mahar’s periodic memory trouble did not affect the trial.

“The defendant’s complete lack of memory will not find the defendant incompetent to stand trial. An endorsement of delusion will not find a defendant incompetent to stand trial,” Pratt said during the hearing. “That is why the state is challenging the evaluations in this particular case.”

Pratt later continued, “I respect the doctors and their opinions but those are just opinions of medical professionals and ultimately it is up to the court to find whether or not the very high bar to find a defendant incompetent has been met, such that we cannot proceed to trial in this case.”

The court has ordered Mahar to continue being held at Western State Hospital until he receives another court order.


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