Justin Schaffer

Trooper Justin R. Schaffer

William Thompson, the Olympia man accused of leading multiple law enforcement agencies on a chase down Interstate 5 and ultimately killing a Chehalis native and state patrol trooper, has been found competent to stand trial.

The court order — entered on Oct. 15 by Superior Court Judge Andrew Toynbee — finding Thompson to be competent to stand trial is the most recent development in the case that has essentially been at a standstill for nearly the first seven months.

William Thompson

William Thompson, 39, makes his first appearance in Lewis County Superior Court in March, 2020 in the death of Washington State Patrol Trooper Justin Schaffer. 

On the same day the court order was entered, Thompson, 40, pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree aggravated murder, first-degree attempted murder and four counts of first-degree assault among seven other offenses, according to court records.

Thompson is accused of intentionally hitting and killing trooper Justin Schaffer, 28, with his vehicle while the officer was laying spike strips down on I-5 in an effort to end the pursuit on March 24. Schaffer is the son of Chehalis Police Chief Glenn Schaffer.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead said frankly there isn’t a lot of new information from his office to report regarding the case because it hasn’t moved anywhere since Thompson was found to be competent.

“To be honest, we haven’t even really discussed a resolution of the case because, I mean, there’s really nowhere to go, it’s either he pleads or he doesn’t and we go to trial,” Halstead said.

Halstead told The Chronicle the next scheduled hearing for Thompson’s case will be a trial setting on Jan. 28 where they will establish dates for an omnibus hearing, trial confirmation and a trial.

One way or another, Halstead said, he is confident the case will reach a conclusion by March 22, 2021.

Halstead could not comment on whether the case was leaning toward going to trial or reaching a plea agreement.

However, a murder case lasting longer than a year is not uncommon. In fact, it is quite normal, Halstead said.

In his 26 years of working in a prosecutor’s office, Halstead said he has only seen one murder case reach a resolution within the timeframe speedy trial rights grant — which is about two to three months.

“They typically get bumped out at least a year, if not more depending upon the facts and what’s going on,” Halstead said. 

Halstead added that once you factor the coronavirus pandemic into the equation, the writing was on the wall that Thompson’s case would be an extended one.

“That’s six months right there where you were guaranteed that it was going to get pushed back. So really if you take that six months out, Thompson’s case isn’t really that old,” Halstead said.

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