Richard Dunn, one of the rare Flagler County individuals facing a murder charge and found not guilty by reason of insanity appeared in court Monday and asked Circuit Judge Terence Perkins to make him a free man again–free of all conditions on where he may live, where and when he may travel, and whether he can come to Flagler County again, which he’s been prohibited from doing since Dunn killed his father with grisly means in Palm Coast 14 years ago.
Perkins wasn’t ready to grant the request just yet–not necessarily because he might not, but because there appeared to have been a bureaucratic glitch: Perkins never saw a formal request in the docket.
Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis, whose position will carry significant weight before the court, did not have a chance to weigh in, since the matter was moot without Dunn’s documentation of a request. And the Dunn family’s testimony would also play an important role. Seven years ago two of Dunn’s relatives were adamant against letting him return to Flagler County.
“His release from incarceration has already had a profound effect on our community,” the Dunn relatives wrote the court in 2013, “with two families moving away from Palm Coast as a direct result of his release this last year. Should not the perception of concerns of law-abiding residents supplant the capricious wants or wishes of this (should have been) convicted social miscreant?” (The parenthetical clause is in the letter.) “How many times will I and my family have to suffer from his ‘mistakes’ in life? Will his next ‘mistake’ directly affect the well-being of my family?”
It did not appear that family members were in virtual attendance at Monday’s hearing. But it is certain that Dunn will formalize his request and could potentially see freedom again, without restrictions, before year’s end.
On January 10, 2006, Richard Dunn, 46 years old at the time, stabbed and killed his father, Jack Dunn, with a knife, a pair of forks and other implements at the house they shared at 18 Clarendon Court in Palm Coast. “Well, now he is out of his misery,” Dunn said after the killing, according to sheriff’s reports at the time.
Jack Dunn was 89. He was the first physician to set up a practice in then-nascent Palm Coast, in the 1970s.
Richard Dunn was charged with second degree murder, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity in a non-jury trial before then-Judge Kim C. Hammond . Dunn suffers from schizophrenia. He had a history of not taking his medication, and had been without it at the time of the killing.
“When the defendant does not take his medication he can become delusional and verbalize prosecutory ideas that can lead to violent action,” Hammon wrote in his 2008 order committing Dunn to a state psychiatrist hospital.
Four years later, Judge Raul Zambrano signed a conditional release order, allowing him to live in transitional housing in Daytona Beach under the supervision of Stewart Marchman Act Behavioral Healthcare, now known as SMA. He was to have no contact with several members of the Dunn family or with residents of the house where the killing occurred, nor was he permitted to enter Flagler County without court permission.
In 2013, after another further relaxation on his living conditions, he violated the conditions of his release, testing positive for cocaine. New restrictions on his movement and living arrangements were imposed. A year later he asked the court to let him live on his own. Since he’d been in full compliance with his conditions, the one infraction aside, the court allowed him to move to a residence of his own while still remaining under supervision. Since then he’s been allowed to travel out of county, including to Miami, Tampa and a one-week trip to Israel with his sister earlier this year, though he’s still required to ask for court permission to modify any of his conditions.
On Monday, he was back in court, via Zoom, appearing before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins–the fifth judge to hear elements of the case, asking not just for further relaxation, but full “termination from conditional release,” in the words of SMA Forensic Case Manager Melissa Eugley.
“Why don’t you tell me what you want me to know,” Perkins told Dunn.
“Well, sir, I’ve graduated from Ms. Palmer’s program, I was there almost seven years,” Dunn said, referring to Pastor Ruth Plummer of Free Spirit Evangelistic Outreach Ministries on Mason Avenue in Daytona Beach. It was one of the rare times since 2006 when Dunn could be heard speak in his own words. “I’ve been on my own, living in a house nearby the program for a year and a half now. I’ve been trouble-free, haven’t had a relapse in some 14 years, and still take my medication court-ordered, through SMA, and still see a psychologist at SMA and would continue to do that. I just wanted release from the weekly meetings and freedom to travel without a judge’s permission.”
But Perkins was perplexed about how the case reappeared on his docket. Dunn told him he’d sent in a letter a month and a half ago. “I’m not seeing anything in the court file,” Perkins said. Eugley could not remember if there’d been a letter or an email asking for a status hearing. “None of that made it to the court file, obviously,” Perkins, a stickler for precision and exact documentation, said.
The judge said he would hear all arguments, “either imposing more restrictions all of that,” he said. “We can do all of that, but there’s a process that we have to follow. First part of the process is, I want everything documented and recorded in the file so everybody can look at it and understand why we’re talking about it, and whatever opinions or feelings they might have, they can bring that to the attention of the court.”
To Dunn, he said if he intended for any changes, he had to write something as simple as a letter addressed either to Eugley or to the court, “what it is you want, why it is, if you think there’s a good reason, write all of the things you’ve done in compliance and the fact that you haven’t been out of compliance or non-compliant in any way, how long you’ve been successfully under the program, all of those things. Put that in your letter. That gives Mr. Lewis with the state attorney’s office an opportunity to comment.”
Lewis spoke only briefly, saying the assumption was that Dunn is under the care of mental health professionals. “We don’t know what their recommendation is on this, we don’t know what their position is, so I would recommend if we’re going to set a hearing that they may be available to testify,” Lewis said.
“I don’t think our providers ever do that,” Eugley said–a surprise, given the rigorous attention the court and lawyers routinely give to (and demand of) psychiatric hospital reports when weighing the competence of individuals to stand trial. The situation is somewhat different with Dunn, who was found not guilty, but who remains under strict court-imposed conditions. “Not that I’m aware of,” Eugley continued. “They’ve never been asked to testify.” She said Dunn’s provider was on vacation for the next two weeks, though she would follow up when he returns.
Perkins did not buy the possibility that providers would not have to testify. “Even if they don’t come and testify and why they wouldn’t I don’t know, they’re subject to subpoena like any other witness, but what I would want is for them to address it in any of their status reports or progress reports, updates, things of that nature. We get information from them regularly anyway, and if that’s a request that Mr. Dunn has made of them, I would expect any request, including that kind of request, would be reflected in their progress notes, and their feelings about that would also be reflected. So if they’re in favor of it, why, if they’re not in favor, why.”
The next hearing has not been scheduled.