Thursday, April 26, 2007
7 News Investigations: Free to Kill
With the recent shooting at Virginia Tech, the issue of people with mental illnesses getting a hold of weapons has been a big debate. Tonight, investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero looks at an issue here in Florida that is allowing violent, mentally ill offenders back on the street, free to kill.
WSVN -- Willie Grandberry beat a woman with a steel pipe.
Colleen Jeffries: "This man savagely killed her, and I couldn't believe a human being could possibly be capable of doing something like that."
Roy Washington slashed his own son's throat.
Livian Washington: "He took a knife and he just slashed his throat."
Grandberry and Washington both had violent pasts. Both were found not guilty by reason of insanity. Both spent time at Florida State Maximum Security hospitals. Both were later released -- and both then committed more violent crimes.
Livian Washington: "I do not believe that he should have been released."
But he was released because, in Florida, if you're found not guilty by reason of insanity -- once you're considered well -- you can't be tried for the crime committed. So, after treatment, many are just released.
Carmel Cafiero: "On any given day here in South Florida, more than 100 mentally ill criminals, just like Roy Washington and Willie Grandberry, are walking the streets. And some experts believe they are ticking time bombs -- time bombs caused by an overloaded system that doesn't have anywhere to put them."
Todd Bass: "There's not enough room for all the people that are either incompetent or not guilty by reason of insanity."
Todd Bass is a Miami-Dade assistant state attorney who fights to keep dangerous offenders behind bars. But he says it's a tough battle, because mentally ill criminals are being freed at alarming rates.
Terry Chavez: "They have to release people from the state hospital whether they're ready or not."
Terry Chavez, a mental health expert for the state attorney's office, agrees.
It boils down to the state running out of room. There are only four maximum-security, state mental hospitals in Florida. All combined, these hospitals only have about a thousand beds, so treatment can't last forever.
Livian Washington: "He should have had more time in there."
Roy Washington shot a man and killed him. He only spent six months behind bars before doctors decided he was cured.
He spent twenty years back in society without supervision before police say he just snapped and slit his teenage son's throat, but the boy survived.
Once again, Roy was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and, once again, he was sent to a mental hospital. He is now living in a halfway house.
Livian Washington: "The mental institution should have evaluated him longer. I believe that he wouldn't be in thefix that he's in today."
After Willie Grandberry was released, he moved here to Passageways in Miami-Dade County.
Tom Mullen: "He had the potential to be bizarre."
But Mullen says Grandberry eventually met the criteria to be released back into society.
Tom Mullen: "We wanted him to stay involved with our case manager and day treatment, and he really didn't want to do that."
By law, Mullen couldn't force him to stay in treatment. Two years later, Grandberry came back, this time with a confession.
Tom Mullen: "I said 'What did you do?' and he said, 'I killed Lynn.'"
Lynn Jeffries and Grandberry met at Passageways before he was released. Mullen eventually found her body.
Tom Mullen: "It's not a life experience that I ever had or that I would want to have again."
Mullen called the police, and Grandberry was arrested and charged with the murder.
He was once again found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Colleen Jeffries: "My sister never had a chance to have a decent life down in Florida. She never had that chance. This man has had more chances than he deserves."
And Grandberry is getting yet another chance: He is back in the same system that let him go free. At his review in March, two of three psychologists recommended that he be sent to a less secure facility.
Todd Bass: "One of those doctors even said that there is a great likelihood that he will commit a dangerous crime again, and this is one of the doctors that wanted to release him."
This time, Bass convinced the judge to deny his release, but Bass knows eventually it's a fight he may lose.
Todd Bass: "Chances are good that ultimately he'll be let out."
Let out without supervision and without warning to anyone about his violent past.