Violent mental patients escaping neighborhood care homes - WSMV Channel 4

Violent mental patients escaping neighborhood care homes

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Kenneth Mallady Kenneth Mallady
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

People accused of violent crimes are living in neighborhoods across Middle Tennessee, and they are being sent there by the state.

Not only that, but the Channel 4 I-Team found case after case of these mental patients going missing after they were released to homes that have almost no security.

The I-Team started looking into this issue when accused killer Kenneth Mallady escaped from a group home in July. Police said he beat up a store clerk while on the run.

But, it turns out his case wasn't unique.

Metro Police Sgt. Morgan Ford said she might not be alive today if she didn't call for backup the day she tried to capture mental patient Sylvia Black.

"I was very fortunate that I didn't lose consciousness, but if I had, it could have been life-threatening," said Ford.

A court decided Black was insane when she attacked Ford and sent her to the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute. The institute released her to a group home, and she then escaped twice.

The I-Team's four-month investigation found Ford is not the only one to walk away. Prosecutors say the system allows dangerous people to get back on the street.

"You can't monitor them enough," said Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore.

The I-Team uncovered that in the last year, at least six mental patients have walked away from care homes chosen for them by the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute after being found not guilty by reason of insanity for a crime.

At least one who was released was an accused murderer. And four of those six patients are accused of assaulting someone after walking away from their group home.

"We do have, here in Davidson County, one or more individuals who many years ago have committed homicides and have been found not guilty by reason of insanity. Some are still at the mental hospital, and one or two have been released to a group home," said Moore. "We walk around with our fingers crossed everyday that there's not going to be a reoccurrence."

The I-Team reviewed 28 case files of people found not guilty by reason of insanity in Nashville courts since 2010. Of those, 25 went to the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute for treatment.

Only seven of those patients remain in the institution, according to their court records. The rest were released, put in the care of family and friends or sent to live in a group home.

Davidson County has at least 45 mental health care homes, and the state says 27 of those are used for patients found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity.

Most of the mental health care homes are in the middle of neighborhoods with no signs and no warning given to neighbors about who could be living nearby.

Amina Oday didn't know she lived on the same Antioch street as an accused murderer and paranoid schizophrenic until Mallady went missing in July.

Mallady had been charged with stabbing his mother to death with a pocket knife and gouging his stepfather's eyes, but a court found him not guilty of the murder by reason of insanity.

He eventually ended up in Oday's neighborhood, at a home known as Ann's Care Home.

"If you are a person who commits a heinous crime, whether you're mentally ill or not, I don't think you should be released into a normal residential neighborhood. If that happens, as it did, I think we have a right to be notified," said Oday.

In July, Mallady walked out of Ann's Care Home and was on the run for days. In addition to the assault on a store clerk, police said he also threatened to kill the park ranger who finally caught him about 40 miles away in Marshall County.

Mallady's sister, Regina Warren, said she thought he had be in the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute for good until she learned he was sent to live in the group home in the middle of Antioch.

"He should have never been considered a candidate for the furlough program or release to the halfway house at all," said Warren.

The operators of Ann's Care Home told an appeals court Mallady would be supervised around the clock, but the Channel 4 I-Team wanted to know how Mallady and the five other patients could simply walk away from their group homes.

The I-Team took these findings to Commissioner Doug Varney of the Department of Mental Health, which oversees the institution.

"These are not secure facilities. They are not locked. Again, if that was required, they wouldn't be discharged from the hospital. They would be kept in the hospital, which is a more secure facility," said Varney.

The I-Team asked why violent people like Mallady are placed in the community in these group homes.

"There was a determination in all these cases - all these cases - it's determined by a court and a jury that these people were not guilty of any crime, because of their mental illness," said Varney.

Varney added that institutionalized patients are only released into care homes when their doctors determine they are stable enough to go. Those patients are also released with a plan for continuing mental care.

"There's a supposition all people with mental illness are dangerous, even the people that are placed at mandatory outpatient treatment. The vast majority of them are not dangerous," said Varney.

But, in the case of Black - the woman charged with beating up Ford - even after she walked away from her care home once, the institute again sent her back. She has since left again and been picked up by police a startling nine times since the attack on the police officer.

This is just the latest in a series of I-Team investigations into the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute's handling and supervising of its patients. The CEO of the institute, Candace Gilligan, resigned last month after our investigations, but the state still has not revealed the reason for her departure.

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