A forensic mental health examination of a man accused of burning down two houses on South Whidbey in July casts doubt on his sanity and mental capacity at the time of the crime.
The report questions whether 49-year-old Blake Fountain was able to discern right from wrong and whether he started the fires in a malicious manner. Both are elements that the prosecution must prove to convict Fountain of arson in the first degree.
Last September, a judge in Island County Superior Court ordered that Fountain be sent to Western State Hospital for a 15-day evaluation regarding his sanity and mental capacity at the time of the offense. Lauren Smith, a licensed psychologist, interviewed Fountain for the report.
Fountain is accused of burning down Lynn and Roger Vehorn’s Useless Bay Colony home on the morning of July 6 after living in the house for about nine months. The ensuing fire, which reduced the Vehorns’ house to rubble, also destroyed the home of the Vehorn’s next door neighbor. A third house suffered a broken window. Nobody was injured by the fires.
Fountain told paramedics at the scene that he had intended to go back inside the house to commit suicide, the police report states.
In the weeks leading up to the fire, Fountain exhibited increasing paranoia and delusional ideations, according to the mental health report.
A few days before the fire, Fountain was taken to the emergency room of WhidbeyHealth Medical Center after he exhibited odd behavior and claimed that someone was trying to place bombs at his work.
“At the emergency room, he did not receive any mental health evaluation or treatment but was simply sent home with antibiotics for an ear infection,” the report states.
His symptoms became progressively worse over the next days.
On the night before the fire, Fountain stayed awake, praising God with his hands in the air in an attempt to stop the battle he thought was going on between God and the devil.
“He reported feeling responsible for finding a way to stop the battle and eventually had a dream and likely auditory hallucination that he must set the house on fire in order to stop this battle and to prevent the suffering of others,” the psychologist wrote.
Fountain was arrested at the scene of the fire. He later tried to commit suicide by hanging himself at the Island County jail.
The psychologist concluded that “the acute symptoms of psychosis directly informed” Fountain’s decision to start the fire and he did not do so in a malicious manner.
She found that his ability to tell right from wrong was significantly impaired.
Fountain pleaded not guilty to the charge of arson in the first degree. His attorney, Craig Platt of Coupeville, indicated on the omnibus application that any one of a list of defenses may be raised at trial, including diminished capacity and insanity.