Case dropped against man who allegedly smashed 34-pound rock on woman’s head outside Oregon mental health center


A man who allegedly said he was “going to bash a woman’s skull” then two weeks later allegedly smashed a 34-pound boulder onto a woman’s head moments after being released from the Unity Center for Behavioral Health cannot be criminally prosecuted.

Dwayne Anthony Simpson’s case was dismissed last month.

Multnomah County Circuit Judge Nan Waller determined that after more than a year of mental health treatment at the Oregon State Hospital that aimed to restore Simpson’s mental fitness to the point that he could be criminally prosecuted, Simpson was still determined to be mentally unfit. And the case must be dropped because a federal order wouldn’t allow him to be treated at the hospital for longer. The federal order, known as the Mosman Order, set a time limit of one year at the state psychiatric hospital.

But Senior Deputy District Attorney Melissa Marrero successfully argued last month that Simpson should be committed to the state hospital – under the jurisdiction of the state Psychiatric Security Review Board – for up to two years based on a state law for “extremely dangerous” people who also are mentally ill. It’s unclear what will happen when the two years are up. The law allows Simpson to be committed for another two years, if he’s still deemed extremely dangerous.

The case illustrates the criminal justice system’s struggles to address the public safety risk posed by some defendants who’ve been determined too mentally ill to prosecute but still a threat to society.

Investigators say Simpson, who was 40 and homeless at the time of his arrest, had been exhibiting signs he was in mental crisis and intending to lash out for weeks before he attacked the woman with the boulder on Aug. 9, 2022.

“I think everyone would agree there’s not adequate resources to give people the care that they need,” said Jason Steen, Simpson’s court-appointed defense attorney.

On July 26, 2022, someone called 911 to report that Simpson was screaming that he wanted to kill a woman or a child. He was taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center but reportedly released within an hour.

Court papers filed by the prosecution state that police soon received another call that a man fitting Simpson’s description was “very amped up” and yelling that he was “going to bash a woman’s skull in,” but police who responded couldn’t find him.

Records show he was briefly booked into Multnomah County Jail and then released on Aug. 4, 2022, for another apparent mental health crisis during which he allegedly shattered the windows of a parked vehicle and later announced at a gas station that he was hearing voices that were telling him to “kill everyone.”

It’s unclear what led him to be treated or assessed at the Unity Center on Aug. 9, 2022. But court papers say he’d just been released when he spotted the woman. She had gotten off work at the nearby Legacy Research Institute and was leaning up against a building waiting for her son to pick her up.

Authorities say Simpson found a nearby boulder that was about the size of a basketball, approached from behind and bashed the woman on the head. A witness said the woman lay on the ground motionless for about two minutes.

She suffered a concussion and required 10 staples to her skull. The woman filed a $4 million lawsuit faulting Legacy, which runs the Unity Center, for releasing Simpson when the suit said the center knew or should have known the danger he posed, particularly to women. The suit, filed more than a year after the attack, states that the woman suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and had been on long-term disability leave.

Prosecutors charged Simpson with attempted first-degree assault, second-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon – crimes that upon conviction would call for a minimum prison sentence of about six years. But instead of prison, a prosecution also could have resulted in a longer spell of supervision under the Psychiatric Security Review Board and mental health help.

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