Dori: Felon released by WA judge accused of killing Idaho couple

On the same day, Idaho innkeepers Rory and Sara Mehen were hosting summer guests at their charming little bed-and-breakfast, a July 22 ruling from a judge 450 miles away in the state of Washington would have resulted in their death.

Court documents from both states show John Cody Hart, 28 – who was released from prison in Vancouver, WA, over objections from Clark County prosecutors – is a mentally ill transient criminal who appears to have shot the couple on October 1 at the front desk of their historic Hartland Inn in New Meadows, ID.

An argument over socks appears to have triggered the murders.

According to information obtained by The Dori Monson Show, the fatal shooting occurred seven weeks after Hart was released by Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis in southwest Washington. At the time, Hart was only nine days away from what prosecutors were seeking for him: an assigned bed and mental health services at Western State Hospital in Lakewood.

More from Dori: Everett mayor pushes back against lawmaker who says police ‘can’t kill people’

Instead, Adams County prosecutors said they now plan to seek the death penalty in Idaho against Hart in connection with last week’s murders of Rory Mehen, 47, and his wife. wife, Sara, 45 years old.

Court documents from Idaho show Hart was staying at the Hartland Inn — an otherwise sleepy 110-year-old mansion previously owned by several previous generations of the Mehen family. On the day of the shooting, Idaho prosecutors say, other guests told the Mehens that Hart was rummaging through their room drawers. When police were contacted about his behavior, Hart told them he was looking for his children’s socks. Detectives later learned that Hart had no children.

Less than half an hour later, Hart drove to the hostel reception where investigators said he shot and killed the couple before fleeing in a car. When officers finally arrested him, Hart told them he had heard voices comparing the innkeepers to 1930s “Bonnie and Clyde” gangsters.

At the time of the shooting, Hart was in violation of his parole after an earlier case in Vancouver in August 2021, where he was charged with first- and second-degree assault. Affidavits in the case say Hart attacked the sleeping roommate of someone he met on a dating app, pushing his thumbs so deep into the victim’s eyes that a nurse said the man would lose probably the view.

Surveillance video shows Hart then punched the victim, restraining the man’s neck until he passed out, the affidavit continues.

A month after that Vancouver attack, Hart was diagnosed with schizophrenia and cannabis use disorder, but a doctor also determined Hart was fit to stand trial. While defense attorneys sought another opinion, Hart remained imprisoned.

In March 2022, both parties agreed that Hart lacked jurisdiction for a trial. When Hart’s defense attorney asked that the charges be dismissed, Clark County Senior Assistant District Attorney Luka Vitasovic objected. According to The (Vancouver) Columbian, Vitasovic argued that “the community does not need someone with untreated mental illness to commit serious violent crimes without provocation.”

1 dead after shooting in Seattle’s Yesler Terrace neighborhood

Ignoring these objections, Judge Lewis agreed to release Hart on “supervised release” and ordered him to remain in the Vancouver area despite Hart’s history as a passenger.

The case, Dori pointed out, bears similarities to others in Washington involving judges who released suspects charged with violent assaults pending trial.

In the most significant case, King County Superior Court Judge Averil Rothrock released two teenagers – suspected of committing a violent robbery at a Federal Way pawn shop earlier this year – under house arrest while assigning them ankle monitoring devices. Police records show the boys, aged 15 and 16, cut off the electronic trackers. Days later, the armed teens were named suspects in the robbery and murder of Tacoma dispensary worker Jordan Brown.

Hart, meanwhile, remains in custody in Idaho, where officials say the Mehens killings were “particularly heinous” and the transient “will likely pose an ongoing threat to society.”

Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon to 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

About Elizabeth Smith

Check Also

What to know about financial aid and scholarship opportunities at ECC – Observer

Nat Leon, Engagement EditorNovember 13, 2022 The entrance to the Elgin Community College Financial Aid …