Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Friday, February 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Day 36° Clear
News >  Spokane

Charges dropped against mentally ill man accused of killing roommate

A man with a mental illness accused of killing his roommate last fall will be committed to a state mental hospital without standing trial.

Judge Gregory Sypolt signed an order dropping charges against Michael J. Prows, 58, earlier this month, following a recommendation from an Eastern State Hospital evaluator, who said Prows was incompetent to stand trial. Prows will now be civilly committed to the hospital by court order.

Spokane County deputies arrested Prows last September after finding the body of his roommate, Greg Ainley, in their shared home. Prows confessed to shooting Ainley in the head and chest, telling deputies he’d been off medication for a while and “things are just not real.”

Ainley was developmentally delayed and had moved in with Prows a few months before the fatal shooting, neighbors said. The pair went to fourth-grade special education classes together and were longtime friends.

“They were both looking forward to spending more time supporting and encouraging each other, as they had throughout their lives,” Ainley’s Sept. 20 obituary reads.

It described Ainley as a friendly, positive man of faith who regularly walked around Spokane preaching the Gospel. He ran track in high school, played tennis with his brothers and worked as a nursing assistant, janitor and gardener.

Prows received about six months of treatment at Eastern State, but an April 27 report said he remains delusional, making statements that he killed Ainley to prevent a nuclear war and was expecting a presidential pardon. When his evaluator asked him if he had written proof of the presidential pardon, Prows backtracked.

“Maybe I was hallucinating in regard to the pardon. I have to keep in mind what I think may not be real,” he told the evaluator, according to the report. Though he was able to answer questions about the role of the jury and his attorney in court proceedings, the evaluator noted he seemed “passive” when discussing possible legal outcomes.

He also said he was “insane” at the time of the killing.

“I could not have harmed a hair on his head,” he told the evaluator, speaking of Ainley. “I loved him like a brother. I’m glad police arrested me and took me away.”

Prows’ brother, Paul Prows, told deputies Michael Prows was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager, according to court records. The latest report from Eastern State diagnoses Prows with schizoaffective disorder, a mental illness that combines symptoms of schizophrenia, like delusions, with symptoms of a mood disorder like mania or depression.

Prows had no prior criminal history, according to the report from the hospital.

On May 2, Sypolt signed an order dropping charges without prejudice, which allows charges to be refiled later. The order said proceedings had been started to civilly commit Prows to Eastern State.

Civil commitments allow people to be placed in the hospital by court order to receive treatment because they present a danger to themselves or others or are gravely disabled and unable to care for themselves.

Once he is civilly committed, Prows would likely be placed in a special category of patients who have been committed after being charged with violent crimes.

Patients in that category still are housed with other patients who arrived at the hospital through a civil, not criminal, process. All wards at Eastern State are locked, but patients who had criminal charges dropped are not treated differently day to day than other civilly committed patients.

“This is a hospital. We’re not in corrections. It’s not a jail. Our focus is to treat the patient regardless of what type of patient he or she is,” said Ronda Kenney, the chief operating officer at Eastern State.

Patients who are committed civilly can be released from the hospital by a judge, who considers whether the patient is still a threat to themselves or others or is gravely disabled. For patients who have been charged with violent crimes, a Public Safety Review Panel looks over cases for patients and makes recommendations before the hospital asks a judge to order release.

Patients committed after being charged with violent crimes often have long hospital stays, said Holly Borso, a civil services administrator with the Department of Social and Health Services department that runs the state hospitals. Most patients in that program remain at the hospital for more than a year.

“It’s not a quick-turning population,” Borso said.

Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter

Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.