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Originally published September 15, 2013 at 8:07 PM | Page modified September 15, 2013 at 9:30 PM

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Suspect in professor’s fatal stabbing may have criminal record in California

Detectives are still digging into the background of the 44-year-old man suspected of fatally stabbing a Shoreline Community College professor in Pioneer Square on Friday night.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The 44-year-old man suspected of fatally stabbing a Shoreline Community College professor in what police believe was an unprovoked attack Friday night does not have a criminal history in the Seattle area, although it appears he does in California.

“We’re just learning about him now,” King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said Sunday, adding that detectives are “still digging” into the man’s background. “He is not known to our criminal-justice system.”

Seattle police have described the man as having a “diminished mental capacity,” but Satterberg said he did not know whether the man had accessed local mental-health services.

Satterberg said the man previously lived in California, and public records show a man with the suspect’s name and age was convicted in Sacramento County Superior Court of misdemeanor theft and arson. He last served a 30-day jail sentence in November for violating conditions of his probation.

Although it appears the man is the same person as the stabbing suspect, it could not be confirmed Sunday.

The Seattle Times is not naming the man, who was booked into the King County Jail early Saturday, because he has not been charged with a crime. He is expected to make his first court appearance Monday afternoon.

On Sunday, Satterberg offered his sympathy to the family and students of Professor Troy Wolff, 46, chairman of the college’s English department, in a post on Twitter, adding: “Untreated mental illness affects us all.”

The post included a link to a 2010 guest column Satterberg wrote in The Seattle Times that called for reforming the state standard for involuntary committal, allowing lifetime supervision of mentally ill offenders who have already committed acts of violence, and increasing capacity in the state’s psychiatric hospitals and local inpatient facilities.

“We can see incidents like this occur with tragic regularity in our community,” Satterberg said of Wolff’s slaying.

According to Seattle police, Wolff and his partner, 30-year-old Kristin Ito, were walking through Pioneer Square about 10:30 p.m. Friday after leaving a Seattle Sounders game at CenturyLink Field when Ito was repeatedly stabbed by a man with a knife near Third Avenue South and South Jackson Street.

Wolff attempted to intervene and was stabbed in the neck and torso. He died Saturday at Harborview Medical Center.

A hospital nursing supervisor did not return a phone call Sunday seeking information about Ito’s condition. On Saturday, she was listed in serious condition.

Friday’s stabbing bears striking similarities to the fatal stabbing of a retired Seattle firefighter 16 years ago, just three blocks away.

On Aug. 24, 1997, retired Capt. Stanley Stevenson, 64, had left a Mariners game at the Kingdome with his wife, Rose, one of the couple’s five daughters and the daughter’s future husband. They were crossing South Sixth Street at South Jackson Street when they encountered 30-year-old Dan Van Ho.

“It was in the middle of a Sunday afternoon and we were waiting for the light to change,” said Rose Stevenson, now 77, of Maple Valley. “A man crossed [the street] facing us with a large butcher knife.

“I don’t think my husband even saw him. It was just a random thing,” she said Sunday.

Ho, who had a long history of mental illness, was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity in March 2000 and was committed to Western State Hospital.

Stevenson’s family went before the Legislature and got a few bills passed, but many of the same problems persist, including a dearth of psychiatric facilities to treat and care for those with severe mental illnesses, Rose Stevenson said.

“We thought we were very successful at the time, but as time passes and there are more things that have happened with the mentally ill, it’s almost out of our hands. We thought we’d solved some of the problems, but obviously we didn’t,” she said. “We tried to make changes, but some of the things are too hard to change.”

Stevenson said one of her grandsons was married in Montana on Aug. 24 this year, which helped turn “a bad day into a good day.”

Still, her husband’s death has left “a big hole” in a family that now includes 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, she said.

“We miss him terribly, the whole family does. He was so full of life and energy and he had so many friends,” Stevenson said. “We think of him daily, all of us do. He would’ve loved to be around all these kids.”

A decade after Stanley Stevenson was killed, 31-year-old Shannon Harps was fatally stabbed in a random attack by James Anthony Williams on New Year’s Eve 2007 outside her Capitol Hill apartment.

Williams, who had a long history of violence and mental illness, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder with a deadly weapon and began serving a 35-year sentence in May 2009.

In November 2010, Michael LaRosa — a homeless man who also had a long history of mental illness — fatally attacked two men, both strangers, with a hatchet. Richard Holme, 64, was killed Nov. 21, 2010, in Seattle’s Chinatown International District, and a day later, Joseph LaMagno, 58, was killed leaving a Capitol Hill grocery store.

LaRosa, charged with two counts of first-degree murder, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in December and was committed to Western State Hospital.

In April, 47-year-old Douglas Carter was charged with two counts of first-degree assault, accused of randomly stabbing two men — critically injuring one of them — who had boarded a Metro bus on Seattle’s Beacon Hill. Carter, who according to charging papers “has a history of mental instability and violent acts,” also threatened a police officer investigating the stabbings.

In 2006, he was convicted of second-degree assault for beating a nurse with a metal chair during a stay at Western State Hospital, court records say.

In June, a King County Superior Court judge ruled Carter could be injected with psychotropic medication against his will. As of last week, the court was still awaiting a psychiatric evaluation to determine if Carter is competent to stand trial, court records show.

Information from Times archives is included in this report.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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