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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Man accused of killing fellow patient at Eastern State Hospital makes threats at court appearance

UPDATED: Tue., March 29, 2022

Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake is seen Monday.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake is seen Monday. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

A man accused of killing a fellow patient at Eastern State Hospital earlier this month made rambling threats during a court appearance Monday.

Martay L. Ellis, 24, was arrested last week after police say he attacked Daniel J. Zellmer, on March 17.

Ellis punched, kicked and heel-stomped Zellmer multiple times in a common area of their ward, according to court documents and Eastern State Hospital.

Zellmer, who had multiple skull fractures from the attack, died on Saturday.

At a court hearing Monday afternoon, Ellis, who is charged with second-degree murder, said he was being “held hostage” and that he would sue everyone for holding him in jail. He then accused someone attending the hearing via Zoom of being a terrorist.

As Spokane County Superior Court Commissioner John Stine maintained his bond at $750,000, Ellis asked if the officers with him in jail could kill the people holding him hostage.

Ellis, a five-time convicted felon, was in Eastern State Hospital for a civil commitment evaluation after police say he beat a woman last fall in downtown Spokane. That victim was taken to a hospital with life-threatening injuries but later released. Officers said the attack appeared random.

A judge dismissed that felony first-degree assault charge against Ellis, deeming him incompetent because of a “mental disease or defect,” according to court documents filed Feb. 15.

This isn’t the first time a patient at Eastern has been accused of killing a fellow patient.

In 2012, hospital staff found Duane Charley dead in his room, after another patient, Amber Roberts, told a hospital employee that she had killed someone using a belt, according to court documents.

Roberts was charged with murder but later found to be not guilty by reason of insanity. She was taken back into the custody of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services where she remained as of earlier this month, according to court records.

Charley’s family accused the state of failing to adequately supervise patients. In a 2014 settlement, the state paid the Charley family $500,000.

Eastern’s accreditation was briefly suspended and its chief executive reassigned shortly after the killing. The hospital regained accreditation in 2013.

In summer 2013, Misael Rodriguez, 43, was found bloody and unconscious on the floor of an Eastern State Hospital restroom. He died 11 days later from his injuries.

Rodriguez’ family sued the hospital in late 2014 alleging Rodriguez was attacked by a fellow patient.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office wasn’t called to the hospital until about four hours after Rodriguez was found and after the bathroom had been cleaned. While deputies interviewed staff and patients involved, no one was charged in connection to the death. The hospital denied an assault took place and settled the lawsuit for $360,000 in 2016.

Last year, CEO Mark Kettner resigned from Eastern State Hospital after an investigation found his administration mishandled domestic violence allegations against a former nurse now accused of killing an ex-girlfriend he met while working at the hospital. The hospital launched a search for a new CEO not long after and has yet to announce a replacement.

Ellis remained in the Spokane County Jail on Monday afternoon. A hearing is scheduled for April 15 to pause court proceedings while Ellis’ competency to stand trial is evaluated.

Editor’s Note: This story’s headline has been updated to correct the relationship between Ellis and Zellmer. They were both patients at Eastern State Hospital. 

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