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Idaho murder suspect had violent criminal record in Washington, mental health issues

John Cody Hart was deemed incompetent to stand trial and ordered to go to Washington's psychiatric hospital. A judge let him out of jail until a bed opened up.

NEW MEADOWS, Idaho — New details are emerging about the two people shot and killed at the Hartland Inn in New Meadows on Saturday.

The Adams County Sheriffs Office officially identified 47-year-old Rory Mehen and 45-year-old Sara Mehen as the two who were killed in the shooting.

Police were called to the motel on Saturday around 12:45 p.m. for reports of an active shooter. When they got there, they found the couple dead inside the main office. The couple owned the Hartland Inn.

Police found the suspect a short time later on Highway 95 north of Cambridge in Washington County, Idaho.

John Cody Hart, 28, from Washington state was taken into custody and booked into the Washington County jail. He is charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

The Adam's County Sheriff's Office confirmed the suspect was a current guest at the inn during the time of the murders. 

KTVB learned the suspect has a criminal record. Not only that, but court records show he should have been in a state psychiatric hospital in Washington.

KTVB spoke with the county prosecutor who oversaw Hart's case in Washington. The prosecutor, Luka Vitasovic, confirmed Hart was charged with first and second degree assault in August of 2021 in Clark County, Washington.

He said an evaluation found Hart was not competent to stand trial. A judge ordered he go to Western State Hospital, Washington's mental health hospital, to try to restore competency in mid-March of this year.

Vitasovic said Hart was in jail for months waiting to be transported to the psychiatric hospital. On July 22, 2022 court records show Hart's defense asked he be released from jail before going to the hospital because he'd been in jail so long.

But Vitasovic said Hart was set to be admitted to the hospital on Aug. 1 - just days later - so prosecutors asked the judge to keep him in jail until then. He was charged with a serious violent felony, Vitasovic said, so they felt it would be safer to keep him in custody.

The judge, Robert Lewis, sided with the defense and let Hart out of jail on supervised release with conditions, according to court records.

Therefore, someone who was deemed incompetent to stand trial was out of custody, waiting to get called up to the state hospital when a bed opened up. Vitasovic said the hospital prioritizes its limited open beds for people who are in custody because their situations are more pressing and urgent.

As of this October 1, when Hart is suspected of murdering the Mehens in New Meadows, Idaho, he still didn't have a bed in Western State Hospital.

Court records show another hearing on his "competency restoration status" is scheduled for Thursday. However that case is now on the back-burner given his much more serious murder charges in Idaho.

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