SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) – Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Gary Medvigy Tuesday morning approved the release of Mathew Beck from Napa State Hospital to transitional housing.
Beck, 38, has been in mental health hospitals since he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in March 2001 to fatally stabbing 36-year-old Sandra Napier and her mother Marcella Napier, 63, with a carving knife on Feb. 10, 2000.
Beck was living with the women in their Rohnert Park home at the time and his uncle was Sandra Napier’s boyfriend.
Rohnert Park police said Beck told investigators he thought the women were evil spirits and that he was sent by God to kill them.
A Sonoma County Superior Court judge denied his release from the hospital in September 2004. After another hearing in 2008, defense attorney Kathleen Pozzi withdrew the petition for Beck’s release.
Medvigy held a hearing Friday on the petition by Sonoma County Public Defender Kathleen Pozzi, Napa State Hospital and county mental health services officials to release Beck from Napa State Hospital to transitional housing.
Pozzi presented four witnesses, including three psychiatrists, who testified Beck was a model patient, was under medication for bi-polar disorder and should be released from the hospital.
Chief Deputy District Attorney William Brockley argued against Beck’s release, citing conflicting reports from Napa State Hospital over several years that alternately recommended that he be released or remain at the hospital.
Medvigy said the vacillation in the reports’ recommendations undermined the hospital’s treatment and restoration process.
“There was little substantiation behind the changes in the (hospital’s) recommendations,” Medvigy said.
He acknowledged reports about Beck having sex with hospital nursing staff and at least one patient, but said those incidents occurred at the beginning of his commitment at the hospital and had no impact on the caregivers’ recommendations.
“The court believes in redemption and treatment,” Medvigy said.
He said the “horrific and horrendous” murders happened during “a bi-polar, delusional episode,” and that Beck “truly was not guilty by reason of insanity.”
Psychiatrists testified that marijuana use seems to be a trigger for Beck’s psychotic episodes, and that Beck has a detailed relapse prevention plan in place that includes returning to Napa State Hospital if necessary.
Medvigy told Beck, “The court finds you have a mental illness that you must watch for the rest of your life.”
“The court has confidence in the conditional release program, and you will be released,” Medvigy said.
Beck cried as Medvigy issued his ruling.
After the hearing, Pozzi described her client’s emotions. “He said he felt his heart was ready to come out if his chest and he said ‘thank you so much’ at least 50 times,” Pozzi said.
Pozzi said Medvigy weighed the witnesses’ testimony and any possible risk to the community and made the right decision.
“I am absolutely comfortable he is not a danger to others and will be a very productive member of the community. There is no doubt in my mind,” Pozzi said.
Brockley said the paramount concern of the district attorney’s office is public safety and that there be a reliable process in place to ensure that psychiatrists’ opinions are substantiated by credible evidence and the facts.
“I’m disappointed but respect the court’s decision,” Brockley said.
Beck will be placed in housing at the Anka Behavior Health, Northstar facility in Manteca when there is an opening within the next two months, said Christina Barasch, a community program director with Sonoma County Behavioral Health Services.
Beck will stay there about three months before he is transferred to the Home for New Beginnings located between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, Barasch said.
Barasch testified that there are strict conditions at both transitional housing facilities.
“He could stay there for a long time. It could be years before he is a free man,” Barasch said.
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