SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A mentally ill homeless woman accused of stabbing two people with scissors earlier this year in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood will soon get out of jail.
On Thursday, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Stephen Murphy reduced Marina Vayner’s charges of assault with a deadly weapon from felony to misdemeanor charges.
Instead of jail, the judge ordered her into a program where she will receive treatment for mental illness and drug abuse. The condition of her release: she must show continued participation in the program. If she drops out, she can get sent straight back to jail.
In a special report in May, KPIX 5 highlighted Vayner’s descent from a comfortable life in the suburban town of Lafayette to the streets of San Francisco. She was a real estate agent and a mother of two daughters. Her husband said mental illness along with drug abuse led her to a shocking state of deterioration and ultimately violence.
Prosecutors say she stabbed two people on April 19, 2018 on Lombard Street: a 62-year old woman and a 25-year old man. Both were wounded, but did not require hospitalization.
Vayner was released from jail after a few days, but then missed a court date and police arrested her on a bench warrant.
She has been in jail ever since, but will soon be out. At first, she will be confined for a two week evaluation process, said her attorney, Deputy Public Defender Will Helvestine.
After that, Vayner will be assigned a bed, and will be allowed to come and go from the treatment facility.
“Today’s ruling does not mean that Ms. Vayner has escaped punishment,” Helvestine said. “It is simply a recognition that state prison is not the appropriate punishment for a 44-year old woman with mental health issues and no criminal record.”
Vayner’s husband said she struggled for years with bipolar disorder, yet refused to take medication. As her mental illness worsened, her husband said she became a different person. Out of control, even violent. Ultimately, he said he had to tell her to leave the house after she attacked one of her young daughters with the blunt side of a kitchen knife.
Vayner moved to San Francisco, became homeless and abused drugs. After four years on the streets, her mental and physical condition declined significantly. In recent months she was so incoherent people in the neighborhood say she began walking around without pants or underwear.
Her attorney said he hopes the court’s new course of action will make a positive difference for her and her neighbors.
“Ms. Vayner’s release to a structured program, where she will receive mental health and drug treatment, appropriately balances the need for rehabilitation with any concerns about public safety,” Helvestine continued.
Her criminal case is not closed. The charges were simply reduced. She will still have to go through the court process for the misdemeanor charges of assault.
With the lesser charges, Helvestine said her chances of being able to resolve her case with mental health treatment instead of more jail time have increased significantly.
But will she take the medication that she has refused in the past? Helvestine said he is optimistic.
“She has been taking her meds for nearly three months now and appears to be doing well,” he said. “Her skin also looks better and she’s grown her hair out. All signs point to progress.”