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YEAR IN REVIEW - Despite ruling, trial dates in the years-long murder case remain unsettled in 2018

SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - Daniel A. Butts appears in Columbia County Circuit Court for hearings last February.YEAR IN REVIEW — A now years-long pending trial for accused murderer Daniel A. Butts saw slight momentum in 2018, with a judge's ruling on the defendant's competency to stand trial.

Butts was arrested in January 2011 for the death of Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter, who was shot and killed while on duty.

During a series of hearings in February, Butts' defense attorneys presented evidence suggesting the man was delusional about the reality of the criminal case against him. State prosecutors also presented evidence of doctor examinations that indicated the defendant — who has been in state hospital custody since 2011 for symptoms of schizophrenia — had shown marked improvement over the last few years. Prosecutors claimed that years of medication and oversight by mental health professionals has made a difference in Butts' overall communication and ability to function in daily`life.

In July, Columbia Circuit Court Judge Ted Grove issued a written ruling that, based on evidence presented, Butts appears competent enough to aid and assist in his own defense and should stand trial.

Despite the judge's ruling, trial dates tentatively scheduled for February have since been continued to a date yet to be determined.

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