A Pierce County Superior Court judge ordered the son charged with killing his mother, a Kent School District middle school teacher, to be held for a evaluation to determine whether he’s competent to stand trial.
Michael Gese, 31, will receive an inpatient mental health evaluation. Pierce County prosecutors asked Feb. 2 for a competency evaluation, according to a Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office spokesperson. Gese is scheduled for a competency hearing Feb. 16 when a judge will review the evaluation and determine whether Gese is competent to stand trial.
Pierce County prosecutors charged Gese with first-degree murder in the Feb. 1 stabbing of Gale Gese, 66, a teacher at Cedar Heights Middle School in Covington, inside her Tacoma home.
If Gese is determined to be incompetent to stand trial, he must be transferred from the Pierce County jail to a state mental health facility for restoration treatment in an effort to make him competent to stand trial. To be considered restored and competent to stand trial, a defendant must be able to consult with their defense lawyer and have a rational and factual understanding of the legal proceedings, according to the Pierce County government website.
But the mental health treatment facilities, including Western State Hospital in Lakewood in Pierce County, have a long waiting list of criminal defendants waiting for competency restoration services provided by the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
“Currently, about 870 people are waiting for a competency restoration bed at Western and Eastern state hospitals, compared with approximately 350 defendants who were waiting at the end of 2021,” according to a Feb. 3 article on king5.com that attributed the numbers to DSHS leaders.
Defendants are supposed to be transferred to competency restoration services within seven days of a judge’s order. Some people are waiting 10 months or longer for a bed at Western, according to king5.com. The news report said state officials “blame the backlog on an unprecedented increase in demand, stalled admissions due to COVID-19 and lack of staff.”
That long wait caused a Kent Municipal Court judge in January to dismiss charges against a Kent man and release him from the city jail after he had ruled the man incompetent to stand trial and to be transferred to a state mental health facility for treatment. The man faced charges for allegedly intimidating a school employee and harassment after a November 2022 incident that caused the lockdown of Meridian Elementary School. DSHS officials said it would be July before a bed would be available.
According to court documents, Michael Gese reportedly told Tacoma Police detectives after his arrest that he was upset at his mother because she had asked him to leave the residence the two shared, which would cause him to be homeless again and he didn’t want that.
He told detectives had had to, “Pop the robot’s head off.”
When detectives asked Gese how he felt about what had happened, he said he was, “Sad, like a funeral.”
Gail Gese called 911 on the morning of Feb. 1 to report she was having an issue with her son. When officers arrived at the house they found her dead inside the home. The son had fled the home but police located him later that afternoon.