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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

Accused killer ‘severely disturbed’

A 24-year-old accused killer is not mentally competent to be tried for the crossbow slaying of a Spokane woman two years ago, a judge ruled today.

Cole K. Strandberg, charged with first-degree murder for the Jan. 7, 2008 slaying of 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron, has a "long, long standing history of being severely, severely disturbed," said Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen.

“He needs to be and he must be involuntarily medicated,” Eitzen said.

Eitzen rejected claims from Eastern State Hospital doctors that Strandberg was either faking the symptoms or had experienced methamphetamine-induced psychosis.

She said the two-day competency hearing showed Dr. Randall Strandquist left out crucial information in his reports, causing her to reject that evaluation and focus on the past reports themselves.

She also rejected Dr. William Grant's suggestion that Strandberg had been faking his mental illness for years to create a defense for murder.

There's too much information in evaluations beginning in 2002 to suggest Strandberg was lying about his condition, Eitzen said.

Strandberg, who is accused of assaulting and harassing jailers and court officials, has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Strandberg is fascinated with Nazi, swastikas and World War II and refuses to work with his lawyer, Chris Bugbee, because he thinks Bugbee is Jewish, Eitzen said.

"Also Mexican," Strandberg interrupted. He said nothing else.

Past coverage: Strandberg's parents struggled to get him treatment

Deputy remembers his slain niece

Strandberg says he wants to plead guilty

Public safety news from the Inland Northwest and beyond.