Richard Dunn, the 60-year-old former Palm Coast resident found not guilty by reason of insanity in the stabbing death of his father Jack Dunn 15 years ago, will again appear in court Wednesday to seek his full freedom, without medical or other supervisory restrictions. He has been seeking permission to return to Flagler County, a permission the court had long denied him, and that relatives of the deceased have opposed.
Jack Dunn, a physician, was 89 at the time of his death. He had been one of Palm Coast’s first private-practice physicians.
Dunn appeared by zoom before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins a year ago, making the same request. The request was denied on a technicality: Dunn had not formally filed the correct papers. By then, Dunn had received permission to travel outside of Volusia County–to Tampa for two days in 2017, to Miami for a few days in 2018, and to Israel for two weeks in 2020, under his sister’s supervision. But in every case, all other conditions of his release plan were to remain in effect.
That plan had been in effect since 2013, when he was allowed to live under less restrictive conditions, in a residence of his own rather than a transitional home, but only in Volusia County. He has remained under the supervision of Stewart-Marchman-Act Behavioral Healthcare, now known as SMA, for medication and counseling.
The status hearing before Perkins is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
But the plan was loosened last December by court order, including a relaxation on travel rules that appears now to allow him to travel to Flagler under certain conditions, though the court order did not make that explicit.
In April 2020, Melissa Eugley, the forensic director at SMA, requested from the court a status hearing “to ask the court to terminate his conditional release plan.” Four months later, Ted Matejka, a nurse practitioner in psychiatry for SMA, wrote Eugley that Dunn was “requesting to get off conditional release and he appears stable and has been stable for a while, so he has my backing next time he goes to court.”
Dunn himself wrote Eugley what he is likely to tell the court on Wednesday: “Let me preface all remarks by saying I know the gravity of my issue in 2006, but through the faith-based program of Free Spirit and my weekly participation in Catholicism I have come to grips with what transpired,” he wrote. Rare is the individual seeking leniency from court supervision or confinement, at sentencing or thereafter, who does not invoke some form of religious awakening to justify the leniency.
Dunn had for seven years attended Free Spirit Evangelistic Outreach Ministries on Mason Avenue in Daytona Beach, an experience he described as a “stark contrast with the previous seven years he’d spent in a state psychiatric hospital. He described himself accepting “Jesus as my Lord and Savior,” getting baptized and confirmed–again, faith-gilded details that people petitioning the court almost invariably provide as indications of reform, though prisoners facing harsher sentences might (and do) say the same.
More relevant to his case, Dunn wrote that “it has been 14 years since I have had a relapse and with the help of SMA and their staff have become keenly aware of any onset of my illness. I have been able to reduce my medicine intake by 25% and have not gotten so much as a ticket the past 14 years.”
That’s not accurate. Dunn was rearrested on Nov. 25, 2013, for violating his probation, or conditional release, after testing positive for cocaine. He’s under court order not to consume alcohol or drugs that aren’t prescribed by his physician. Otherwise, his record has been clean.
Dunn graduated from the Free Spirit program and has been living on his own for a year and a half while holding the same job for three and a half years, calling that “another sign I have become somewhat self-reliant.” He wrote the court that his record “these past 8 1/2 years speaks for itself,” and asked for mercy.
In December, Judge Perkins issued an order modifying his conditional release. He was to be seen by his psychiatrist at SMA once a month for three months, then quarterly, starting last December, and to continue to receive monthly injections of an undisclosed medication. He was to meet with his case manager at his home biweekly for three months, then monthly in the following three months.
A significant part of the order was its wording about travel, which seemed contradictory: Dunn “will continue to request the court’s permission to travel outside of Volusia County for the next 3 months, but may for the 3 months following obtain permission from his psychiatric provider (ARNP) at SMA Healthcare to travel outside of Volusia County.” In other words, a decision that had rested with the court until now was shifted to Dunn’s psychiatrist–or, as the case may be, to Matejka, who has stated his “backing” to lift restrictions. Yet the order’s next clause states: Dunn’s “status had not changed and he will be required to continue to comply with the Conditional Release Plan.”
Initially Dunn denied knowledge of his father’s death on Clarendon Court South in Palm Coast that day in 2006. But the victim’s daughter-in-law, who had told deputies she was afraid of Dunn, had described what he wore that day. Those clothes were recovered, with the victim’s blood on them. Evidence established that Dunn had stabbed his father with a fork, a knife and a key on numerous parts of his body, which was then desecrated with smokeless tobacco, food and vitamins.
A year ago, when Dunn pleaded his case before Perkins, Jack Dunn’s son Robert Dunn wrote in response to that article, referring to himself and his wife of 43 years: “We are dismayed at the possibility that Richard may now have free access to search us out. We remain fearful of him and strongly oppose his request to have free access to our family and children.”