PHOENIX » The county prosecutor’s office in metro Phoenix said Wednesday that it tried unsuccessfully to extend a man’s stay at a state mental hospital before he was released from custody several months ago and became a suspect in the decapitation of his wife and mutilation of himself.
The man, whose identity hasn’t been released by police, had spent about 10 years in the hospital for stabbing a relative in 2003. The decapitation last weekend raised questions about whether he should have been released from custody.
The acknowledgement by the Maricopa County attorney’s office that it had tried to extend the man’s stay in the mental hospital marked a turnaround from its previous claim that it wasn’t told to try to civilly commit him after he completed his sentence for the 2003 stabbing.
"Evidentiary issues precluded us from proceeding with the civil commitment process," said Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County attorney’s office, declining to elaborate because the case is under seal. Cobb made the correction Wednesday after The Associated Press obtained a copy of a state psychiatric board’s Nov. 25 order for prosecutors to try to extend the man’s stay.
Police say the man killed his wife, 49-year-old Trina Heisch, and inflicted injuries last weekend on himself, including a severed left forearm and a missing eye.
The suspect is expected to be arrested after he is released from a hospital.
He was approved for release 10 months ago by the psychiatric review board based on a belief that his mental health disease was in remission and that he wasn’t dangerous if he lived in a residential treatment program.
Two months after the board cleared Heisch’s husband for release from the state hospital, it voted to order the county prosecutor’s office to start proceedings to civilly commit him. The board’s chairwoman has said the panel did everything it could in the case to ensure community safety.
The Phoenix Police Department has questioned the decision to release the man.
Heisch’s husband was found to be "guilty, except insane" on charges of attempted second-degree murder in the stabbing of the family member in March 2003. The verdict spared him prison time.
A judge also found Heisch to be "guilty, except insane" on charges of attempted second-degree murder in the stabbing of her 15-year-old son while he was sleeping in January 2000. She was ordered to spend 10 years in the state hospital and was eventually released.