Psychos among us...
by Robert A. Waters
Eighty-nine-year-old Ralph Aldrich, lounging in his back yard, saw a stranger approaching from the woods behind his home in Grays County, Washington. The man, wearing camouflage, said, "I know what you are." Looking up in alarm, Aldrich turned to walk back into his house. That's when John F. Chase shot him with a crossbow. The arrow pierced Aldrich's back, and the startled homeowner fell to the ground. Chase dragged the wounded man to the carport, and left him there.
Chase entered the home and encountered June Aldrich, 83. Striking her in the head with the blunt end of a hatchet, the assailant stole the couple's pickup truck and drove to a friend's home.
The arrest warrant describes what happened next: "On the evening of November 4, 2011, Jarrod M. Byron was contacted by the defendant at Byron's residence in Hoquiam. The defendant explained to Byron that demons were out to get him. He told Byron that he had killed the demons. Byron noticed that the defendant had blood on his clothing. Byron noted that the defendant had driven to the residence in a gray Chevrolet S10 pickup...The pickup was registered to Ralph and June Aldrich of Humptulips, Washington.
"Byron spoke to the Hoquiam police who spoke to the defendant. [Chase] was eventually taken to Grays Harbor Community Hospital to be seen by a mental health professional. He was taken to the Grays Harbor Crisis Clinic to spend the evening.
"On the morning of November 5, 2011, Byron, based upon information he had seen in the pickup truck drove to the Aldrich address in Humptulips. He found an elderly male, later identified as Ralph Aldrich, face down on the ground outside the residence. Byron called 911 and deputies responded. Mr. Aldrich was found to be dead. Deputies observed injuries consistent with an assault and observed blood on the ground near the body. Mr. Aldrich was later observed to have a through and through wound to his chest.
"[A] deputy went into the residence and found an elderly female, later identified as June Aldrich, Mr. Aldrich's wife. She was on the floor in the residence. Officers observed significant blunt force injuries to her head. However, she was still alive. An aid crew was called and Mrs. Aldrich was transported to Community Hospital and thereafter to Harborview Medical Center.
"Byron was later reinterviewed. He advised that the defendant told him that he had killed the demons with a crossbow and hatchet. Officers had observed a crossbow near Mr. Aldrich's body. Byron told officers that he had observed a hatchet inside the S10 pickup truck that the defendant had driven to his residence.
"The defendant was located and taken into custody. Following advice of Miranda, the defendant admitted that he had been camping in the woods near the Aldrich residence. He described going to the Aldrich residence and killing the demons. Deputies were later able to locate a small campsite near the Aldrich residence."
The injuries suffered by June Aldrich were horrific. Her teeth had been knocked out, and her face crushed. One week later, the victim died of her wounds.
Controversy quickly erupted.
The family of Ralph and June Aldrich blamed the Hoquiam Police Department for mishandling the case. "I think the Hoquiam police are responsible for my aunt's death," David Aldrich said.
Bob Riddell, June's son and stepson of Ralph, said: "I think they definitely dropped the ball. If they could have at least contacted the county sheriff and asked them to do a stop by, then my mom might still be alive. She lay there for about 18 or 19 hours. According to what the doctors told us, if she would have been found sooner, there was a possibility she would have still been alive." Since Ralph bled to death, family members feel that a quick response may have saved his life, too.
After hearing the criticism directed at his department, Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers responded, "I believe the officers acted on the information they had that evening."
Chase was charged with the murders of Ralph and June Aldrich. But after several mental evaluations, a judge found John Francis Chase not guilty by reason of insanity. The man who claimed to see demons escaped prison--he was sent to a mental institution.