SEATTLE – Washington state authorities believe a transient charged with hacking a man to death was responsible for a similar slaying one day earlier.
Michael La-Rosa, 26, was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the Nov. 22 death of Joseph LaMagno, who was attacked unprovoked while walking home with his groceries in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.
King County prosecutors also named La-Rosa as a suspect in the death of Dale Richard Holme, 64, of Seattle, whose body was found in the city's International District several miles away, one night before LaMagno's death. No charges have been filed in that death.
LaMagno was repeatedly struck in the head with a camping hatchet and died at the scene, police Detective James Cooper said in court papers. La-Rosa was arrested a short time later and told officers he had attacked LaMagno, whom he had never met before.
"I don't know what came over me because I've never done murder, you know," La-Rosa told detectives.
La-Rosa told police he was homeless and had been diagnosed as schizophrenic and with bipolar disorder. He said he hears voices saying people were giving diseases to him and his family, and claimed he heard LaMagno say, "I gave your sister herpes, without having it!"
La-Rosa also said he had stopped taking his medication because it made him feel unwell and that he didn't like its side effects.
When he was arrested, La-Rosa told detectives he had spent the night before riding transit buses and sitting in a restaurant to stay out of the cold. He said that on the morning of the attack on LaMagno, he had gone to a store to buy groceries, but left when he discovered he didn't have his food stamp card.
La-Rosa said he began to walk around the area because he felt sick and needed fresh air. He said he had bought the hatchet because he was tired of staying in shelters and wanted to camp in the woods.
The night before LaMagno's death, Holme's body was found at the base of a loading dock with severe head wounds. An autopsy determined he died of multiple chop wounds to the head, said William Barbour, a county medical examiner's investigator.
La-Rosa remained jailed with bail set at $5 million. He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.