Fifteen years after killing and mutilating his elderly father, and to the consternation of his family, Richard Dunn in the last few months had been coming close to regaining his full freedom without any court supervision. Just last June he’d spoken to Flagler County Circuit Judge Terence Perkins as if he were as normal as any 60-year-old man, as long as he kept taking his medications and speaking with his counselors. The court was inclined to agree, but with reservations.
“Why is everyone under the inclination that as soon as I’m cut free, I’m going to jump off a bridge and kill somebody?” Dunn had asked the judge. “I’d like to know why that seems to be the ideology here.”
The answer came shortly afterward, provided by Dunn’s own behavior. Dunn, who killed and mutilated his 89-year-old father, Dr. Jack Dunn, Palm Coast’s famed founding physician, had been found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2007. He was institutionalized, then released to a halfway house, then allowed to live on his own but still under rather strict supervision. For the past two years he’s been petitioning the court to regain his full freedom. In early summer he was granted permission to visit Flagler and Palm Coast again if he so wished, as long as he had a supervisor’s approval–an allowance his family objected to.
Now, for the first time in eight years, Dunn is back in jail. He was arrested last Thursday. He’s violated his conditional release agreement. The violation is the sort of minor infraction that for most people under court supervision would net a day or two in jail, if that: he smoked pot. But in a sign of the anxiety surrounding Dunn’s recent behavior, Perkins has ordered Dunn to remain in jail pending a reevaluation of his case as a psychologist and the court figure out whether Dunn can resume his slow trek to freedom, or whether he will have to submit to new constraints.
The change is the result of a “bizarre” series of “red flags” in the last few months, according to his mental health supervisors, who appeared before Perkins by Zoom on Friday, as did Dunn, from jail. The strange behavior includes a sudden and significant weight loss, a serious burn on Dunn’s hand that he refuses to explain, weird writings on his door, the pot use, an uninvited appearance at a caretaker’s door at 2:30 in the morning, and his indifference to court-required appointments with his mental health counselors. The odd behavior is raising concerns about his mental stability and the risk he may pose of again losing his grip on reality and causing harm.
“Just as the red flags go down, they come back up. That just continues to concern us,” Christopher Bailey, a case manager for Dunn for about a year, told the court. “So the goal of this was just to have him here to have everyone present and figure out what can we do before something goes wrong, before it does go too far.”
Dunn had been scheduled for what was to be another routine status hearing before Perkins–one of many as he’s slowly made his case to regain his freedom. The arrest turned it into a different kind of status hearing, though the court, the prosecution and the defense had too little information to do more than ask for further evaluations.
“I was getting some indications that Mr. Dunn was not following precisely his conditional release plan,” Perkins said, “and that there were some concerns with regard to maybe either not taking his medication, or taking his medication but other drugs or alcohol as well, and some non compliance. So, I wanted to bring a halt to everything, give everybody an opportunity to kind of figure out where we were and whether or not we need to change anything, medical treatment, anything, as we go forward, so that we are absolutely assured at not just the community but Mr. Dunn and everybody in his life remains safe and secure as we move forward.”
Nothing that Perkins heard was reassuring.
“His behavior is concerning to the state, especially the way his father was killed in ‘06,” Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis said. He was referring to how Dr. Dunn was found–with fork stabs to the neck and groin and a strange assortment of food on top of him. “I do have some concerns that he could lose control of his mental faculties and harm somebody.”
SMA’s Melissa Eugley has known Dunn since 2012. She’d been his forensic case manager for six years, and for the past four has been in a more supervisory role of his case managers, including Bailey.
“The Richard Dunn that I know very well is not the same person that we have been seeing for probably at least the last six months,” Eugley told the court. “Things have changed, not drastically but they certainly have changed, so he’s lost a significant amount of weight, probably at least 50 pounds. His attitude is very very different.”
This is what beguiling–and also concerning–the court and his supervisor: Eugley described a man with “very good insight,” intelligence and self-awareness. He knows what he’s doing when he talks to his supervisors. In the past he himself would know when something was off. He would go to SMA’s crisis stabilization unit.
“Most recently there has just been more bizarre behavior,” Eugley said. “He showed up about to 2:30 in the morning this past weekend to a former caregiver, stating it was out of concern that her mother had recently passed away. But he had not reached out by phone. A very inappropriate time to go and check. Obviously she was sleeping. Then he wanted to enter her home and she told him–absolutely not. So that’s a great concern. He also has a severe burn on his left arm that he has not indicated how he’s done. He did not go and get medical care.”
He was ordered to get it checked and go through follow-ups. He did not comply. “It’s very evident that something’s not right,” Eugley said, “and it’s alarming everyone across the board.”
Dunn’s roommate of a year appears to be in the same pattern, Eugley said, adding to the concern.
Christopher Bailey, Dunn’s current counselor, was even more concerned. “We haven’t been able to directly pinpoint what’s going on, but his behavior is out of the norm,” Bailey said. “He presents very well. If you ask him questions or you have a discussion with him, he knows what to say, how to say it and when to say it. He’s very intelligent. However, his patterns in his behavior has become a little indifferent. He’s missing appointments, he’s confusing the days and the times. We’re having to constantly remind him of things that he was on top of just not too long ago.” Plus the marijuana use and the weight loss. “I understand exercise and I understand fitness but he looks sick,” Bailey said. Then came the unexplained burn, “just kind of as a random, weird thing it wasn’t being cared for.”
The “bizarre things,” Bailey said, are out of character. “Within the last three or four months, it just seems he’s going downhill.” He’s also been undependable at work. “ It’s just raising some red flags across the board. So we just wanted to stay ahead of it as best we could to a reasonable degree.”
Assistant Public Defender Regina Nunnally would normally be arguing for a defendant’s immediate release, based on the offense. Not this time. “Given lives and circumstances. I don’t think there’s a basis for me to object to him remaining in custody, to get the evaluation done,” Nunnally said. “That gives me a chance to speak to him, as well as to–does he understand what’s going on and what the consequences could be, depending on how we get to that point. She suspects it’s something going on in his house with his roommate.
The evaluation will be conducted by Dr. Roger Davis, a Jacksonville psychologist often retained by the court to evaluate defendants.
“This is not an in competency exam or anything. This is a little different and a little broader than under normal circumstances,” Perkins said. “I want to move this towards a resolution, and that resolution is by its very nature going to involve a review of the current treatment. Any recommendations with regard to changes in the treatment, and a review of the conditional release plan. And similarly, any proposed changes to that conditional release point.”
The distinction between the evaluation requested and the competency evaluation amounts to a difference in degrees of severity in potential consequences: if Dunn were found to lack competency, he could be once again confined to a state psychiatric hospital. He’s not at that point, and his behavior, while bizarre, was not at the point where it could legitimize any other form of intervention by his caretakers, the counselor told the court. So his arrest on the marijuana violation was essentially a relief to everyone. It is allowing a complete pause in the case and Dunn’s removal from society as he is being re-evaluated.
“We’ll take it one step at a time. The whole idea here, the objective is, as we’ve all indicated, is safety,” Perkins said, “safety of the community, and the safety of Mr. Dunn moving forward. We’re not going to take any chances with regard to either of those.”
Another status hearing is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. In an irony likely blistering to his family, the given address for Dunn on his latest jail booking was 18 Clarendon Court South–where he had killed his father. The property has twice been sold to different owners.
Here we go again. The court wants to use their psychological evaluations and most of the time these professional people who perform said evaluation work for the state. Aside from his charge which he has against him I CANNOT STAND BACK AND WATCH THIS JUDGE RUIN ANYONE ELSES LIFE!.
I personally believe that these type of cases should take place outside the county in which they originated in. Heyyyy y’all, when’s the last time you saw Staly and Perkins together. GOD please help this community. Cowboy and Indian games are long over. Time to move on. And I bet the psych evaluation that this guy gets and has been getting if funded by the state in which case the judges at hand has a huge influence on a case.
Land of no turn signals says says
Ticking time bomb
Agree–That is exactly what he is. He should not be given any more chances to harm others. He has been given enough chances and he is responsible for blowing them.
Celia M Pugliese says
For the safety of all Palmcoasters and county residents please retain this man in jail given the fact that we do not have mental illness holding facilities available. Yes I agree is a time ticking bomb… Just the read the way he killed his father this killer is sick! What is wrong with the Florida courts… They let go of Pettito’s killer and now is costing us taxpayers millions the search for that cold blooded killer. How more dumb? Where is the law fair to all that is supposed to protect us the multitude of innocents?
WHY are the WASTING TIME on this guy? Society needs to be protected from him. He is a mentally ill MURDERER.
He asks “Why do people think he will kill someone if set free?”
Because you MURDERED your own father and chopped him up into pieces.
Sorry – people that do those things can NEVER be “rehabilitated”…I dont care is he is a good boy “as long as he takes his medecine”.
Lock him up…Throw away the key.
Another walking time bomb but of course Flagler County will probably end up giving him more freedom. Criminals seem to get a lot breaks in Flagler County, why is that?
After having worked in the criminal justice profession for my entire career, and more than half of my life, the issue of having someone adjudicated “not guilty by reason of insanity” has never made much sense to me precisely for the reason we are seeing her with this mentally unstable man who murdered his father. By the mere fact that he has been deemed NOT guilty due to his mental condition at the time of the crime, the courts tend to treat him and others like him with kid gloves. My own learned opinion from my many years of experience dealing with criminal behavior is that this state, as others have already done, should instead have a formal criminal classification of “guilty, but insane”. It may seem like a small change, but I assure you that society would see a huge difference in how mentally deficient criminals would be handled by the courts. If and when a convicted person was found to no longer be insane, they could, and SHOULD, then be incarcerated since they were already deemed guilty. I believe that would go a long way in protecting communities from people like Richard Dunn.
Let Freedom Ring says
Good thing you’re out of the profession. If a person is deemed incompetent by reason of insanity, you can’t come back years later and make them pay for the crime. They weren’t competent. They were sick. But what an encouragement to get better. lol. We’ll lock you up after you’re cured. Hello, McFly! And now you’re suggesting Peace N Love move an ex-felon in his home… good lord.. you’ve gone off the deep end.
Peace n Love says
This man has done his time. He wants to become a valued and productive member of society again. We are very short on school bus drivers in this county. Perhaps that might be an avenue for him to get reintroduced into society.
God I hope you’re joking. I don’t want some guy who murdered his father in such a terrible way, driving young children around!
Trailer Bob says
Are you being serious or sarcastic? The latter I hope…
We are all God's Children says
Peace and Love,
When I first read your comment, my initial thought was you must be crazy. Who in their right mind would allow a mentally ill ex-felon to drive our kids around on a school bus? However, after thinking about it for some time I came to the conclusion you may be onto something.
Studies have shown that working with kids can be very therapeutic for certain psychological conditions. His interaction with children could help him transition back in to normal society. You may want to have someone ride with him on the bus for the first month or so before you turn him loose.
Due to the shortage of workers, I understand there is a need for household workers as well. you might be right that he needs help being reintroduced into society, so if the court sees fit to release him from custody and completely remove all restrictions I think it would be a “peace n love” kind of thing to encourage him to move into your home as a live-in maintenance man. I hear he is really good with knives and things.