Richard Dunn, the now-60-year-old man who stabbed his father to death in Palm Coast in 2006 and spent years in a psychiatric hospital, may be re-committed there just as he was approaching regaining his full freedom. A psychologist retained by Flagler County Circuit Court is recommending that he be re-committed involuntarily for further treatment.
Dunn in 2007 was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the killing of his father, physician Jack Dunn. He was institutionalized.
After being released from a state hospital several years ago, Dunn had been living on his own in Daytona Beach and working, but still under court supervision. He was seeking to end that. In court appearances late last year and earlier this year he argued that he was now well enough to be entirely free: he was on medication, he was seeing his counselors, he was working and living what he considered a normal life. An intelligent and well spoken man, Dunn was a strong advocate for himself, but his counselors at SMA Health Care also helped him along and supported his slow route to freedom.
That began to change a few months ago when his counselors noticed behavior they described as “alarming” and “bizarre,” including his inappropriate 2:30 a.m. unannounced visit to a former caregiver, odd writings on his door, and a serious burn he suffered on his arm that, to this day, he has not explained. He had also resumed smoking pot, which landed him back in jail–to the obvious relief of his counselors, who were not comfortable seeing him at large given his recent behavior. Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis last week asked the court that Dunn be kept in jail without bond pending the resolution of his psychiatric evaluations. Circuit Judge Terence Perkins agreed and Assistant Public Defender Regina Nunnally said there was no ground for her to object.
Perkins ordered that Dunn be evaluated by Dr. Roger Davis, a Jacksonville psychologist often retained by the court to evaluate defendants’ competency. In a hearing last week he said it was not to determine competency. But Perkins’s written order states that Davis’s evaluation was to determine if Dunn “is competent to proceed in this case, (ii) whether his mental status or stability has changed and (iii) whether his current mental status or changes in his mental status warrant changes to his conditional release plan.”
The details of the order clearly set out criteria that would determine Dunn’s competency and his ability to comply with existing orders. Davis was not expected to have completed the $450 evaluation by today. But he had. He could have recommended a less severe resort than for Dunn to be recommitted: the judge had left open the way for “alternatives, other than involuntary hospitalization, which might be less restrictive to the defendant’s liberty.” Davis’s conclusion suggests that the precariousness of Dunn’s mental state, elements of which were detected by his counselors, may be more serious than he lets on. One of his counselors repeatedly told the court that Dunn “presents well,” meaning that he knows how to appear in full control of his capacities, even though he may not necessarily be so.
Davis’s report was discussed in a brief hearing this morning, but not at length–just enough to reveal that Davis’s recommendation is to re-commit Dunn. The actual evaluation will not be made public, but it can be inferred that the psychologist found Dunn to have drifted back seriously enough, mentally, to no longer be allowed to remain a free, or relatively free, man, even under court supervision.
Still, the judge is withholding a further order until a hearing next Friday, when Nunnally will have had time to study the report and evaluate her own response. Nunnally may choose to contest the report–an unlikely outcome, given Dunn’s history–in which case she may call her own witnesses and establish a basis to go against the report’s recommendations. The state is certain to endorse the psychologist’s recommendations. It is not yet clear whether other Dunn family members–who have spoken of their alarm about Dunn’s increasing freedom–may be called in as witnesses.
Ultimately, it’ll be up to Perkins to decide how to rule on Davis’s report. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 8. Dunn remains at the county jail.
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