Mental patient who slit daughter’s throat wants more freedom
By Brian Stanley firstname.lastname@example.org May 9, 2011 07:56PM
JOLIET — A man who was judged to be insane when he killed his 3-year-old daughter in 1996 may be allowed to walk around the grounds of the mental health facility where he has been held for more than a decade.
In December, John Blank, 46, and his caretakers asked Judge Sarah Jones to allow the staff to provide Blank with passes to move unsupervised between buildings and outside at the Elgin Mental Health Center.
In July 1996, Blank was alone with his daughter, Cari, when he cut her throat at their Bolingbrook home. His wife returned home to find him covered in blood and pleading for forgiveness. Blank had been prescribed anti-psychotic medication and believed demons were after his daughter and that his house and lawn had been bugged. Originally found “guilty but mentally ill,” an appellate court later ruled Blank was not guilty by reason of insanity.
Since 2000, Blank has spent most of his time in a locked building at the mental health facility. In 2008, he began receiving passes to leave the grounds for supervised visits to a substance abuse program and patient outings to local shopping centers.
On Thursday, Dr. Syed Hussain, a psychiatrist who has treated Blank for eight years, said his patient is not currently suffering from delusions and has not caused problems at the clinic or during supervised trips.
“We are asking for these passes to test him out … (for) the next step in his treatment — to be in a less-restrictive environment,” Hussain said.
The psychiatrist testified Blank will require psychiatric care for the rest of his life and should remain committed to the facility, which can legally hold him until 2026.
Blank takes anti-psychotic, anti-depressant and mood stabilizing medication, which cause side effects similar to the effects of Parkinson’s disease, including lethargy, body stiffness and tremors.
“I think he’s (responded) exceptionally well,” Hussain said. “He has shown mental stability, cooperation, an ability to comprehend his illness (and) the nature of his crime. There’s no cure, but control of the symptoms.”
Hussain said passes are issued at the staff’s discretion. If Jones allows Blank to receive them, he’ll be able to leave the locked building for up to an hour, but must check in with security after 30 minutes.
“What is the therapeutic goal of Mr. Blank walking around the grounds unsupervised?” Jones asked after Hussain had testified and been cross-examined.
Blank could walk on a path at the facility, sit on a bench and talk with other patients, but the staff hopes he would participate in therapy classes available in the other buildings.
“We don’t have the number of staff to take him every day,” Hussain said. “(The purpose is) to test the patient out in a less-secure setting and check their responsibility. He has to go on time and check back on time. He has to interact with others.”
Jones is scheduled Thursday to hear closing arguments for and against the motion to grant unsupervised passes.