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Wed, Oct. 23

Schlee pleads 'guilty except insane' to roommate's murder

PRESCOTT - Gary W. Schlee, accused of the 2010 murder of his roommate, on Tuesday took a plea agreement offered by the state and pleaded guilty except insane.

Schlee, 59, was arrested in June 2010 after sheriff's deputies responding to an assault call found him sitting on top of an unresponsive Leon Haller, 74, in a bathtub in the Cottonwood home where they both lived. Yavapai County Sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said Schlee was covered in blood and that Haller was beaten to death with a blunt object.

Schlee was facing a single count of first-degree murder.

His attorney, Robert Launders, argued that Schlee was mentally incompetent at the time of the murder, pointing to such statements made at the time of his arrest that he was "an assassin of God" and that his lawyer, "Vladimir Putin, the Commissar of Russia" had been at the crime scene.

However, after treatment in the county's Restoration to Competency (RTC) program, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley ruled that he was competent to proceed.

At that hearing in January, Launders protested that the doctors involved with the RTC program had taken a side, were not objective, and that Schlee was still incompetent.

"I don't believe you have established that to this court's satisfaction," Ainley replied. "This is not an exact science, not a perfect science."

Tuesday, Schlee pleaded guilty except insane to one count of second-degree murder.

Ainley said she found that Schlee was "afflicted with a mental disease at the time of the offense," but noted that "the defendant did intentionally, without premeditation, cause the death of" Haller.

She accepted his plea and said Schlee would be committed to the Arizona State Hospital for 16 years, with annual reviews.

Because the family of the victim is entitled to make a statement, but they were not in court Tuesday, Ainley set the commitment date for May 10.

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