MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) — A state psychiatric board heard testimony Friday on whether it should allow some limited freedom to a man who was found not guilty by reason of insanity for beating his pregnant wife to death in front of their 5-year-old son in 1998.
Doctors who have been treating David Messenger testified it would be appropriate to move him from the Connecticut Valley Hospital into a Hartford-based community treatment program, where he would be allowed to spend much of his time unsupervised and allowed to travel freely around three Connecticut counties.
Dr. Kevin Trueblood, a forensic psychiatrist from Yale University who has treated Messenger since 2007, testified that Messenger has been stable for several years and has no active psychiatric issues that would require him to continue living at the Middletown hospital.
“He’s here because the board has required that he be here, and we’ve hit a wall with transitioning him to the community,” he testified.
Police say Messenger bludgeoned his wife, Heather, with a 4-by-4 piece of wood and a fireplace poker at their home during an argument. She was pregnant with twins and Messenger was upset because he only wanted one baby, according to testimony at his trial. The killing was caught on audio tape because she had called 911.
He was acquitted of manslaughter by reason of insanity in 2001 and ordered confined for 20 years to a state psychiatric hospital.
Last year, the board allowed Messenger to travel three times a week for treatment off site. But it refused his application to the supervised release program.
If the board grants his application this time, Messenger would move into a halfway house operated by the state, where he would have a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew but otherwise would be allowed to travel at will through Hartford, Middlesex and New Haven counties.
Messenger did not appear at Friday’s hearing. His lawyer, Michael Devlin, told the board he did not want to expose Messenger to unauthorized contact with the media. His doctors testified that media exposure is one of the stresses they are most concerned with, should he be released.
Heather Messenger’s sister, Hannah Williamson, and a brother, Daniel Williamson Jr., traveled from out of state to argue that he remain at the mental hospital.
They testified that Messenger had anger issues for years, and they fear for their safety, the safety of his son and the safety of the public if he is released into the community.
“I wouldn’t want to be the one to cut in front of him in the grocery store or take his parking spot,” Hannah Williamson said.
Outside the hearing, Daniel Williamson, who adopted the Messenger’s son after his mother was killed, said the process has been hard on the now 20-year-old.
He said the family is pushing for legislation that would allow the review board to take into account the impact on victims when considering releasing someone who has been committed because of what otherwise would have been considered a crime.
“The biggest frustration for us is the continual reliving of the past tragic event,” he said. “When the killer leaves the criminal system and enters the mental health system, victims become much more limited in the rights that we have.”
The Psychiatric Security Review Board did not immediately issue a decision.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.