By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, March 9, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- A Rockingham County Superior Court judge ruled that Helen Garland, accused of brutally beating her 85-year-old sister to death, is a danger to herself and others.
Judge Patricia Coffey ordered Garland to turn herself into the Rockingham County Sherrif's Department; where she will remain in custody for the next 90 days to be evaluated on whether she should be civilly committed.
The ruling comes on the heels of a hearing in January to determine if Garland, who has been living at home, is a danger to herself and others and should be committed to an institution.
Garland, 76, was charged with second-degree murder in the 2004 beating of her sister Alice Keyho in a Hampton residence, but those charges were dismissed after experts ruled she was incompetent to stand trial.
At the hearing, two expert witnesses agreed that Garland has dementia and is incompetent to stand trial, but differed on whether she is dangerous to the degree she must be committed.
Dr. Albert Druktenis testified he believes Garland is dangerous and that she may have been suffering from dementia at the time of the murder. He stated her dementia may have lowered her inhibitions causing the brutal attack of her sister.
Forensic psychologist Helene Presskreischer told the court that she believes that Garland doesn't need to be institutionalized at this stage of her condition and that her violence was only directed at one person, her sister.
Coffey stated the brutal nature of the murder, mixed in with her current condition, proves that she is susceptible to dangerously unpredictable behavior.
"The fact Ms. Garland engaged in an unrelenting campaign of violence against her sister over the course of several days, ultimately leading to Ms. Keyho's death, convinces the court that Ms. Garland's dementia renders her unable to control her aggressive reactions," stated Coffey.
Coffey stated she believes that if Garland remains free, there is a likelihood she may engage in aggressive and violent behavior when confronted with uncomfortable situations.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Will Delker said if the state decides to have Garland committed after the 90 days, it needs to file a petition with probate court.
Another hearing in probate court will determine if Garland is a danger to herself or others. Those proceedings are confidential and will not be open to the public.
Delker said if the state decided to have her civilly committed, it doesn't mean she would be institutionalized. "We made it clear at the hearing that even if we decide to have her civilly committed it doesn't mean she would be confined to a particular institution," Delker said. "This is an opportunity to have her supervised. Right now, no one is supervising her and there are no court orders on what she can do or where she can go."
Delker said having her live in assisted living facility or home confinement with someone checking in on her are two possibilities of what could happen.
If Garland is civilly committed, it does not necessarily mean she will not ever be tried by a jury.
At any time, the state attorney general's office could order Garland to take another competency evaluation if it thinks her condition has changed for the better.
Garland was arrested March 26, 2004, on first-degree assault charges after she admitted to police that she would beat her sister, Alice Keyho, on a regular basis. She was later indicted on the second-degree murder charge.
An autopsy report revealed Keyho had 22 broken ribs and was backhanded so hard imprints of rings that matched the ones Garland was wearing were left on her face and body. It also revealed a rug burn along her back from being dragged across the floor after she died.