ST. HELENS, Ore. (AP) – The man accused of killing the police chief of a small Oregon town in 2011 has changed his plea to guilty.

Daniel Butts, of Kalama, Washington, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated murder and two counts of attempted murder in the fatal shooting. He also entered a guilty except for insanity plea to several other charges.

Authorities say Butts fatally shot 55-year-old Ralph Painter, the police chief of Rainier. Painter was responding to an attempted theft at a car audio store.

Butts was first sent to the Oregon State Hospital in 2013 after being found unable to aid and assist in his own defense. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia shortly after.

The Columbia County Circuit Court previously said Butts’ symptoms had “greatly diminished” as a result of his current hospitalization and forced medication. In July 2018 he was found competent to stand trial.

KXL’s Mike Turner reports Daniel Butts was sentenced to life in prison.


KXL’s Rosemary Reynolds and Mike Turner contributed to this report.

Photo of Butts in court 3/26/19 courtesy of KXL Reporter Mike Turner.

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The Kalama man accused of killing the Rainier Police Chief more than seven years ago, is fit to go to trial. Columbia County District Court Judge Ted Grove handed down the ruling on Tuesday for Daniel Butts. His trial is scheduled for February 2019. In his ruling Judge Grove wrote that Butts does suffer from schizophrenia, but his symptoms have greatly diminished as a result of his current hospitalization and forced medication.

Will the man accused of killing an Oregon Police Chief be able to stand trial or not? It’s a question we’ve asked for seven years now. We may get some answers today. KXL’S Rosemary Reynolds has been following the story and is in St. Helens for the four day competency hearing that starts today. Daniel Butts is the Kalama man accused of murdering Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter. There are several potential outcomes.

Photo of Daniel Butts at hearing 2/6/18:

Chief Ralph Painter’s family has tried to stay positive and is hoping for closure.

The Daily News in Longview, Washington reports that according to Columbia County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Auxier, Columbia County Circuit Court Judge Ted Grove set Butts’ trial date for February 2019. A competency hearing for Butts starts today Feb. 6, 2018, to determine whether or not he is fit to stand trial.

Butts has been in and out of Oregon State Hospital in Salem after he was ruled unfit to stand trial in 2013 and couldn’t assist in his own defense. He has since been forcibly medicated at Oregon State Hospital in hopes that he will become mentally competent to stand trial. If Butts is still found unfit to stand trial in February, his trial likely would be postponed again.

Auxier said the reasoning behind the year’s wait between the competency hearing and the trial date is due to the prosecution’s heavy caseload.

During the January 2011 shooting, Painter was responding to a car theft call at Rainier Sound Authority. When the chief arrived, he and Butts got into a struggle and Painter was shot in the head after Butts allegedly took Painter’s pistol.

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