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Monday, November 13, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seattle teen to stand trial for killing high school tennis coach last year

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Seattle teen accused of fatally shooting Newport High School tennis coach Mike Robb last year is competent to stand trial, a judge decided today. After the decision, the teen pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Samson Berhe, 19, has been at Western State Hospital in Lakewood, Pierce County, since his arrest June 26, 2005, when Robb was shot while driving home. Berhe was deemed incompetent to stand trial several times already, and if he had been found so again he likely would have been civilly committed to a mental institution and the charges dropped.

Instead, prosecutors and Berhe's defense attorney will begin to prepare for trial. Defense attorney Byron Ward said in court he would likely proceed with a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity, but wanted to review Berhe's complete mental-health records first.

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.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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