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Friday, November 10, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Competency hearing set in tennis coach's slaying

Seattle Times staff reporter

A judge on Monday will decide whether a man accused of fatally shooting Newport High School tennis coach Mike Robb last year is mentally competent to stand trial.

Police say Samson Berhe, 19, fired a shotgun at Robb on June 26, 2005, as the coach was driving along West Marginal Way Southwest on his way to his West Seattle home. Berhe has been charged with first-degree murder.

He was sent to Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Pierce County, after his arrest when attorneys became concerned about his mental competency. He has since been found not competent to stand trial several times by a judge.

Doctors have been trying to restore his competency through treatment.

Monday, a judge will consider reports from the doctors and determine once again whether Berhe is able to understand the legal proceedings and charges against him and whether he can assist his lawyers in his defense.

If Berhe is found incompetent, under state law the charges would be dismissed without prejudice and proceedings would begin to have Berhe committed to a mental hospital indefinitely. He could then stand trial when and if doctors determined he was competent.

He also could be released, but that would be highly unlikely, said King County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mary Barbosa.

At the time of his arrest, Berhe "made faces, contorted his lips, spoke in different voices, spit and drooled. He flexed his arms and challenged detectives to fight," according to charging papers.

In the months before the fatal shooting, police were called to the Berhe residence in Seattle on several occasions, including three times the week before Robb, 46, was killed, a Seattle police spokesman said last year.

Berhe was twice taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for a psychiatric evaluation. After the second evaluation, on June 23, 2005, his parents refused to pick him up at the hospital because they were afraid of him, according to police.

According to a civil lawsuit filed in September by Robb's widow, Elsa Robb, against Berhe's parents, Berhe left home two days later with the shotgun that police say was used in the killing. An hour before Mike Robb was shot, Seattle police stopped Berhe on an unrelated matter but let him go.

Berhe's hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. at the King County Courthouse.

Natalie Singer: 206-464-2704 or nsinger@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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