Bremerton woman declared competent to stand trial for murder charges

Amber James is charged with murdering her son, 9, Oct. 31, 2017. Her trial is scheduled for May 14.

PORT ORCHARD — Amber Lynn James, 47, of Bremerton, was declared competent to stand trial for second-degree murder charges after allegedly killing her 9-year-old son, Ryan Taylor Rosales, on Oct. 31.

On Feb. 8, a Kitsap County Superior Court-ordered competency evaluation was conducted by licensed psychologist Thomas LeCompte. Also present was Derron Ambrose, a predoctoral psychology intern.

At the time of her arrest, James was taken to Harrison Medical Center for a medical and mental health evaluation.

“At the hospital and unsolicited by Deputy [Brad] Trout, Amber told Deputy Trout that she needed to save her son from people that were after us, needed to protect him,” Kitsap County Sheriff’s Detective Lori Blankenship wrote in the statement of probable cause.

“She described [her son] as the best kid in the world. She stated she prayed, thought about it, cried and then put her hands around his throat so he couldn’t breathe any longer.

“Amber then asked Deputy Trout, ‘How do I explain to someone why I just f—king killed my kid? What is a good explanation of that? I killed my f—king kid,’” Blankenship wrote. “Deputy Trout stated Amber did not cry or have any tears.”

Trout later overheard James “telling the doctor that she hurt her son so he couldn’t breathe” and that she told the mental health professional “that she received the red mark on her left hand when [her son] was fighting back,” Blankenship reported.

James was cleared medically by the doctor and determined to be non-suicidal by the mental health professional. She then was transported to Kitsap County Jail and booked for murder in the second degree, with bail set at $1 million.

However, after being booked into Kitsap County Jail Oct. 31, she was placed on suicide watch “as she had attempted to cut her throat prior to arrival at the jail,” LeCompte wrote. “In documentation dated Nov. 1, 2017, she denied current intent to harm herself.”

According to the report, James repeatedly presented as being mentally impaired between her arrest and the evaluation, often fluctuating between a flat facial expression and screaming, or being described as having presented an “elevated mood, manicky, impulsivity.”

“When seen on Nov. 3, 2017, while still on suicide watch, her mood was described as incongruent with her circumstances,” LeCompte wrote. “While able to respond to questions, she wasn’t seen as fully lucid and she expressed some delusional ideas. She was described as having poor immediate memory, poor insight and judgment and being impulsive.”

The evaluation starts with James’ personal history, provided solely by her “and is limited by her credibility.”

Her history includes abuse, sexual abuse and relationships with people who abused alcohol, as well as a varied job history, though she was unemployed at the time of her arrest and was doing light cleaning jobs and “getting financial assistance from her boyfriend.”

“Ms. James noted having a good social support system consisting of siblings, her mother, other relatives and friends,” LeCompte wrote in the report. “She added that she has a ‘really huge social circle and business clientele.’ ”

In regards to her mental health history, James said she was hospitalized at Kitsap Mental Health for about a week and a half following the death of her father. According to the report, she was diagnosed with an unspecified bipolar disorder. During the evaluation, however, James “denied knowledge of any mental health diagnosis and reported one instance of self-injury at the time of her arrest.”

Ultimately, despite reports of past behavior while in custody, throughout the evaluation James is described as having “no obvious symptoms of a thought disorder.”

“This is not to say they are fully absent,” LeCompte wrote. “She currently is receiving medications in the jail to manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, which would be expected given her current life and legal circumstances … there was no indication during this evaluation that her current perception was impaired.”

LeCompte said that given the available information, James “is diagnosed with unspecified anxiety disorder.”

James also was asked questions from the Fitness Interview Test-Revised, a questionnaire of information relevant to criminal court proceedings in order to ensure she fully understood legally what was occurring.

James demonstrated a basic understanding of relevant legal terms, and indicated that she would comply with her lawyer’s suggestions even if she disagreed “because they were more knowledgeable about legal matters and that she trusted they’d provide her with advice that represented her interests.”

“In summary, at the time of this evaluation, Ms. James had no obvious symptoms of intellectual impairment, a thought disorder or major mood disorder,” LeCompte wrote. “She spoke in a logical, organized and relevant matter … in my opinion Ms. James has a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against her and has the capacity to assist in her defense.”

On Feb. 2, James’ lawyer, Caleb Cunningham, declared her intent to rely on the defense of insanity.

An omnibus hearing for James’ case is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on April 13. An omnibus hearing is a pretrial hearing used to determine the evidence, including testimony and evidence seized at the time of arrest.

A jury trial is scheduled for 9 a.m. on May 14.

To read previous coverage of the case, visit goo.gl/KvDoVR.

Michelle Beahm is the online editor for the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.

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