Mountlake Terrace man pleads not guilty to SPU shootings; insanity defense may be sought

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Aaron Rey Ybarra during his  June 6 court appearance.
Aaron Rey Ybarra during his June 6 court appearance. (Photo by GREG GILBERT/THE SEATTLE TIMES)

A plea of not guilty was entered Monday by the defense attorney of a Mountlake Terrace man who is facing charges of murder, attempted murder and assault in association with the June 5 shooting spree at Seattle Pacific University that left one student dead and two others injured.

Aaron Rey Ybarra, 26, appeared in an arraignment hearing in King County Superior Court. He is charged with one count of premeditated first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder and one count of second-degree assault. If convicted of all charges, Ybarra could face up to 86 years in prison; King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg has already announced  he will be seeking a life term in prison for Ybarra due to the exceptional nature of the crime.

According to our online news partner The Seattle Times, during Ybarra’s arraignment Monday, defense attorney Ramona Brandesfiled a notice of intent to pursue a plea on the basis of mental instability.

The filing doesn’t necessarily mean she will pursue an insanity defense, but allows that to be an option as attorneys are required to file the document within 10 days of the arraignment, she said.

“It’s a defense we are definitely investigating, but we still need more information,” Brandes told The Times after the arraignment. “We will be looking over medical records, talking to past doctors to review their diagnoses and will have him diagnosed ourselves by a number of experts before we decide if it is fully viable.”

Following the plea, Ybarra was escorted out of court and back to a cell in the King County Jail as the hearing judge refused to allow bail to be set for the suspect.

Ybarra is accused of driving to Seattle Pacific University, walking onto campus and entering the school’s Division of Science and Engineering building – Otto Miller Hall – with a shotgun and other weapons, shooting three students and pointing the shotgun at two others. His next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 10.

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