Zamora heading for prison, not hospital

by: Lee Stoll Updated:

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MOUNT VERNON - Convicted killer Isaac Zamora just lost a fight to stay in the mental health system and out of prison.

The 33-year-old shuffled into a Mount Vernon courtroom in waist, wrist and leg restraints, flanked by seven officers.  His tearful parents sat a few feet away, listening to their son’s attorney argue to keep him as a committed patient, not a prisoner.

 "It is unfair, and constitutionally unfair, to change the rules now," said Wes Richards. 

Zamora killed six people, including a Skagit County sheriff’s deputy, during a shooting rampage in 2008.  Zamora, who is schizophrenic, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to two murders and guilty to the other four.  That assured prison time if he was ever released by DSHS.  Zamora says he took the deal because state law only allowed the patient to petition for transfer from the Department of Social and Health Services to prison.  But the law recently changed.  Now, DSHS can ask for a transfer when it want to. 

In court papers, Zamora wrote, "I would not have accepted the plea bargain if I had known that the law would be changed."

 Assistant Attorneys General Sarah Coats told the court, "That is utterly ridiculous." 

The state says the point of the plea was for Zamora to avoid the death penalty, not to pick and choose where he would serve his sentence.  The judge agreed. 

"Mr. Zamora was not going to be released from state custody no matter what scenario we could dream up,” said Skagit County Superior Court Judge Michael Rickert. 

Zamora already moved once.  He was transferred from Western State Hospital to the Monroe Correctional Facility after he was violent with the staff.

His parents say Zamora is being punished for a decision he never should have been allowed to make. 

"They want to say 'he knew he chose this or he chose that' but he didn't know anything. How could he possibly know?  He was insane at that time." said his father, Anselmo Zamora. 

The Department of Correction has to prove it can handle Zamora’s mental health needs.  A hearing is scheduled for June.