A Eureka woman who killed her husband in their Old Town apartment in 1997 will remain in the state mental hospital where she has spent the past 20 years.
On Thursday, Judge Christopher Wilson denied Patricia Marie Cote Williams-Fargo’s
petition to be released from Napa State Hospital and treated on an
outpatient basis. Pote, as she prefers to be called, wants to live
with her second husband, a former mental patient she married about
three years after being committed.
after a hearing in which Pote was the only witness, ruled she had not
proved by a “preponderance of the evidence” that her sanity has
been restored and she is no longer a threat to the community if being
suffered a major head injury in a 1972 car accident and has had
mental problems since then. In 1997 she shot and killed her first
husband, local school custodian Barry Williams. A jury found her not
guilty by reason of insanity and she was committed to a state
hospital for life. Such patients, however, can petition the court for
release and outpatient treatment. In Pote’s case, the hospital
opposes her release because of safety concerns.
Pote is now 67, with gray hair falling almost to her waist. She needed help getting in and out of her chair. She has been in Humboldt County Correctional Facility since May 30, waiting to have a judge hear her petition.
Asked by Deputy Public Defender Brie Bennett whether she understands her current circumstances, Pote said she does.
“I have been given a life sentence for the murder of my first husband, who was a mentally abusive man,” she said.
As to how she feels about the killing now, “I feel terrible.”
Bennett asked about her diagnosis, and Pote said it’s “temporary insanity due to the environment I was in.” But she also understands and agrees she will need to be on medication for life.
As to life in a mental hospital, Pote said it can be frustrating.
“Well, it’s kind of like the same old routine, day in and day out, and that’s about it,” she told Bennett.
Under cross-examination by Deputy District Attorney Josh Rosenfeld, Pote testified she has only “a vague recollection” of shooting her first husband.
“It’s been so long ago now,” she said. “…It was kind of like a mishap. I came home from work and my husband had been drinking and partying all the night before. I came in and he was naked in bed. I was coming in the back door and he was saying good-bye to someone who was going out the front door.”
Rosenfeld asked Pote if she believed her husband had ever tried to hurt her.
“Yes,” she said. “I believe he tried to poison me with rat poison.”
She said she went to the hospital, but because of the cost she left without having “my stomach flushed and my blood analyzed.”
Pote still thinks she was poisoned, though it was “a one-time situation.”
Most of Thursday’s questioning by Rosenfeld and Bennett focused on the years since Pote has been in Napa. During that time there have been several troubling incidents, including her reportedly asking another woman to help her kill a fellow patient she considered “very spiteful” and a thief.
Pote now says that was a joke, because other patients knew she had been charged with murder.
She apparently has been aggressive at times with both other patients and hospital staff, especially when she decided money or other property had been stolen from her locker.
“Most of the time I would be very upset and want my money or possessions back,” she said. She now realizes, she testified, that these situations need to be handled by calm discussion. And in future confrontations, she said, “I would be passive.”
Pote seems to suspect that a few patients, conspiring with a few hospital employees, have invented stories to get her in trouble. Staff members who oppose her release are “opinionated.” She used that term many times for people who disagree with her plan to leave the hospital. They are opinionated, domineering, always thinking they know best.
In 2015, at age 64, Pote requested a pregnancy test because she believed a hospital worker had sexually assaulted her during the night shift.
“I had had my tubes tied so I didn’t want to bring a child into the world,” she explained.
Pote has so far not come up with a required “discharge plan,” in which she would outline the steps needed for her to live safely in the community. She just wants to be with her husband, and she says some people are helping them with plans for housing and funds.
“I have my tubes tied so there’s no fear of unwanted pregnancy,” she said.
Asked how she would support herself if released, Pote said money has accumulated in her hospital account over the years. She is also hoping for some grant funding. She acknowledged her current husband has asked her for money several times, and she complied until her counselor decided she couldn’t give him any more.
Rosenfeld asked what would happen if she found herself in the same situation with this husband that she did with the first one.
She couldn’t answer because “that’s hypothetical.”
Wilson, in issuing his ruling, said Pote “comes to conclusions in her own mind” and those conclusions are not always based on reality.
Pote has admitted her mind sometimes plays tricks on her, he said, and she sometimes acts negatively based on her questionable beliefs. He said the plot to murder another person in the hospital “illustrates the same sort of thinking that led to the original offense.”
A recent report from Napa State Hospital says releasing Pote into the community would be a “high risk,” Wilson noted.
He said Pote seems vague about her diagnosis, which is a neurological and cognitive disorder caused by her brain injury, and she doesn’t appear to link her diagnosis with her behavior. She also hasn’t prepared a plan for how she would live if released from the hospital.
“You need to come up with a concrete plan,” Wilson told Pote, and he said that plan needs to address how she can live safely in the community.
The hospital’s next assessment of Pote will be July 31. A date for review of her status was set for mid-August.
“Thank you, Your Honor,” Pote said at the end of the hearing.
“Good luck to you.”