Insanity defense fails, Danner found guilty of first-degree murder

A Grays Harbor County jury found Bria Jessie Danner guilty of first-degree murder on Tuesday.

The jury deliberated for about an hour before returning its guilty verdict for the murder of Sung Sil Kim in Aberdeen on Jan. 30, 2019.

Grays Harbor County Chief Criminal Deputy Jason Walker, who led the state’s case, said it would be inappropriate to comment on the verdict.

Danner’s attorney, David Arcuri, was not immediately available for comment.

Danner pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity shortly after her Jan. 30, 2019, arrest; the jury, after four days of testimony, agreed with the state’s argument that Danner was not legally insane when she stabbed Kim to death in the lobby of an Aberdeen motel she co-owned with her husband.

In their opening arguments on June 2, both Walker and Arcuri said there was little question Danner committed the murder. Video surveillance footage outside the motel — formerly the GuestHouse motel, now the Olympic Inn and Suites in the 600 block of West Heron Street — showed Danner stashing a bag in the bushes outside the hotel shortly before the murder. Footage inside the lobby showed Danner stabbing Kim in the lobby, turning to leave, then returning to stab Kim several more times before exiting.

Walker called a number of witnesses, including Kim’s husband, who discovered his wife’s body shortly after the stabbing. Other prosecution witnesses included an employee of the car lot across the street and Aberdeen police and fire personnel. Walker later called the state’s expert witnesses declaring Danner was not legally insane at the time of the crime and rested its case on day three of the trial on June 4.

Arcuri called his witnesses to testify that Danner was legally insane at the time of the stabbing. Closing statements were delivered by both attorneys Tuesday morning, day four of the trial. Jurors were given their instructions by Superior Court Judge David Mistachkin at 11:55 a.m. Jurors returned with their guilty verdict at 1:03 p.m.

As Arcuri said during jury selection at day one of the trial, if Danner had been found not guilty by reason of insanity she would have been sent to a mental institution until such time as she was found medically fit to reenter society.

With the first-degree murder guilty verdict, Danner is facing 20-26 years in prison. The guilty verdict also included a deadly weapon charge, which adds wo years to the time of the sentence for which Danner cannot get any time off for good behavior.

Danner’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. July 16.