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Smith medical bill won’t cost county much

Wasco County officials are breathing a sigh of relief that the vast majority of medical bills for a deceased murder suspect aren’t going to be paid by local taxpayers.

District Attorney Eric Nisley said only $9,565 of the almost $250,000 bill for the late Roark David Smith, 53, ended up the county’s responsibility. He said attorney Bradley Timmons of The Dalles was asked to scrutinize several bills for medical services that were provided to Smith over a period of several years.

Less than $10,000 of treatment for his numerous health problems ended up taking place after he was transferred to The Dalles from the Oregon State Hospital in December of 2011. He had spent almost three years in the mental health facility undergoing a psychological valuation to determine if he was fit to stand trial for the murder of two people.

“We reviewed multiple bills for Mr. Smith for a compilation of stuff that didn’t happen here,” said Nisley. “It was a huge relief for us to realize that the bills we had received were not ones we were responsible for. We are responsible to cover the costs for the care and medications he received during the time he was at NORCOR.”

On Jan. 15, Smith – who suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes —- was found dead on the floor of his cell. An autopsy revealed that he had sustained a fatal heart attack. He had undergone surgery at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland a few days earlier to have a small brain tumor removed. The state medical examiner performed an autopsy on the day of Smith’s death and determined the surgery had taken place without complications and had not contributed to his demise.

The type of surgery that Smith had was for a tumor known as a meningioma, which is common in adults over 50 and generally benign, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Defense attorney William Falls of Portland assured court officials in December of 2012 that the cost of Smith’s surgery would be paid by the U.S. Veterans Administration because of his past service in the Navy. However, county officials initially thought the bills they received from Legacy in February were tied to his January surgery.

Smith died less than a month before he would have faced a jury to determine his guilt or innocence in the Feb. 25, 2009, deaths of Patti Hong, 46, and her son, Randy Hong, 23, at their Chinook Street home.

In late 2011, Judge Donald Hull determined that Smith was capable of assisting in his own defense in a competency hearing that Nisley requested. The judge heard testimony from three mental health specialists before determining that Smith understood the nature of the charges against him and the potential consequences if he was found guilty, despite a diagnosis of delusional disorder.

In 2009, Smith confessed to a 9-1-1 dispatcher that he had just walked across the street from his residence and shot the Hongs. Patti was found dead in the driveway of the family home and Randy was shot and killed in his bed.

He later recanted that statement and said it had been made under duress because he had been poisoned by his ex-wife in a plot to put him behind bars.

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