Cornelius neighbors air concerns with group home operator

Posted by sfriesen November 13, 2008 14:56PM

CORNELIUS — Skeptical neighbors met this week with Luke-Dorf staff for the first time since the mental health care nonprofit changed its plans for what used to be a secure residential treatment facility.

They gathered in the now-empty Connell House, which the state closed in June after a resident escaped by climbing over the tall fence.

That fence is now gone, as are the original plans for the home, which Luke-Dorf is changing to an unlocked treatment facility for lower-risk residents.

After nearly two hours of presentations and sometimes tense discussion between the two sides, Cornelius resident Jim Claeys said he felt more comfortable with Luke-Dorf’s plans.

But he wondered why such a community discussion didn’t happen the first time.

In 2007, Luke-Dorf got a conditional use permit from the city to develop and operate a secure residential treatment facility.

But it wasn’t until December that neighbors — and the planning commissioners who approved the permit — discovered most of the home’s residents were people who had been found “guilty except for insanity” of crimes such as arson, attempted murder and rape.

The clients had been conditionally released from the Oregon State Hospital by the state’s Psychiatric Security Review Board.

City officials revoked the permit in January, leaving room for Luke-Dorf to reapply if it scaled down its plans. That’s what Luke-Dorf is doing now, with a public hearing before the Planning Commission expected in early 2009.

But the initial neighborhood uproar led to harsh feelings about Luke-Dorf that hadn’t faded Wednesday.

“You’re not trusted,” said Larry Gehrke, one of a dozen neighbors who showed up. “This is not a pro-Luke-Dorf crowd.”

Still, the meeting reassured some. Officials said they were working closely with the Washington County sheriff, who alerted neighbors to the home in December. “I trust Rob Gordon,” Claeys said.

And Ashleigh Brenton, who left Review Board jurisdiction in February, spoke movingly of her own path through the mental health system after being found “guilty except for insanity” of robbery and assault.

Brenton, a poised, friendly 52-year-old with no other criminal history, described the psychotic episode eight years ago that culminated when she sped away from a gas station with the attendant clinging to her car.

Neighbors applauded her honesty. But Claeys called Brenton’s behavior a “one-time thing” and said, “It’s the repeat offender we’re worried about.”

Mary Claire Buckley, the Review Board’s executive director, said the board considers patients’ criminal histories when deciding on releases. She cited confidentiality protections and said client profiles would be shared with Gordon and Cornelius Police Chief Paul Rubenstein but not the public.

Neighbors toured the 12-bed home and heard about the clients’ structured days: meals, medication management, community meetings, office visits, therapy and recreation.

The goal is to have clients ready to be on their own when the board’s jurisdiction ends and they go into the community.

At Connell House, residents could leave on their own but would still be closely monitored. Violations — skipping medication or returning late — could send them back to the state hospital — which none of them want, Luke-Dorf officials said.

— Jill Rehkopf Smith;


Slain woman desperate to help her mentally ill brother

Posted by Kathleen Glanville November 10, 2008 22:12PM

Days before Theresa A. Rockwood was stabbed to death in her brother’s apartment, she wrote a long e-mail to her aunt in Illinois, describing Joseph Rockwood’s declining mental health.
Joseph Rockwood is accused of killing his sister.

He was getting more delusional and carried a bat. He wasn’t taking his medication or paying his rent and faced eviction. She said she was trying to get him help and had talked to his caseworkers but was frustrated that he hadn’t been placed in a secure group home.

In the Oct. 27 e-mail, she described her plea to her brother’s mental health team: “I put a call into them, and begged them to do something because of his state of mind and all that he is doing. … He’s out of control, needs to be in a nursing home with other people like him so staff can oversee his care. … I do not know what to do.”

On Monday, Rockwood’s brother, Joseph F. Rockwood, 54, was wheeled into a Multnomah County courthouse to face a single count of murder in the fatal stabbing of his sister Theresa, 52. She was found on the bathroom floor of his Southeast Portland apartment Friday with multiple wounds to her stomach. Police suspect her body had been there for more than one week.

Pleas for help and understanding

10/27/2008 11:51:09 A.M. Central Standard Time

“Joe is spending all his money on fast foods And pizza. And crazy things like books he will never read and thousand of vitimins, etc.. i tried to talk to him about his finances and offered to help him get help, he has refused.

“His mental health team was there to see him on thurs of last week.I put a call into them and begged them to do something because of his state of mind and all that he is doing. he put on a great show that all was well with him and that he was not in need of there help and he asked them to leave. they called me back we talked for over an hour on his case, said they cannot do anything with Joe because of the fact he can put on a good face when they bring the mental health department in to evaluate, Joe can snap out of it when they show up.

“They had to close his case after all this time, Joe has refused all treatments and will not allow them to work with him this past year. They do know he is not well, but said they have the law they have to go by. Joe has refused any and all treatments medications, assistance and including consuling by the mental health.

“When i was at his place he told me to go and get pizza and other food stuff, he said he bounces checks all the time and the bank just keeps paying them and sending him a bill, so that is another way he owes so much bounces multi checks per week.

“He is out of control, needs to be in a nursing home with other people like him so staff can over see his care. ILL has tighter rules for the mentally ill, if he was in IL he would be in a facility, Oregon has more activist that put laws in place that they can do whatever and live whereever as long as they do not harm themselves or another. They can be totally crazy and live on their own here. I do not know what to do.

“I do think he has gotten himself into this mess to end up in IL near the family. But i have tried to tell him, It is very different now, that everyone is busy with their lives and it is not all fun and parties. He is very mad at me for telling him that. he said i am dead to him, and that i am trying to break the family apart.

“I will talk to the mental health social worker again today. as far as needing a truck… i would say if he goes to IL it would have to be by train and all his stuff can go by train, he has used furniture, junk, he would just need his clothing and a few of his other things. One can take the train with 3 boxes at 50 pounds each and then 2 carry ons of the same weight. Tom came to Oregon that way and come to think of it that is how Joe came out here, and if he goes to IL where is he going? none of the sisters will take him, that is why he is calling on you and aunt Marylou. I would say maybe our couisn Cathy rockwood, but then again he is unsatabe and i do not feel comfortable one on one with him. he carries a bat with him. he is mentally unsatble to live with someone or even alone.

“call me tonight after 9 pm if you can, my mins are free then.”


Date: Sun, 26 Oct 2008 14:57:34 -0400

“Hi Theresa, Would like to talk to you later today re: Joe……………did he get kicked out of his apt? He mentions (in a voice mail), that he needs me to get a truck and come there to help him move back to Illinois……….Said his check bounced and he was tossed out of his apt………….

“Is the Dept of Mental Health still involved with him? He’s really in need of them.

“Will call you today (or call me)”

Aunt Barb

“She was the best advocate for him,” said Theresa’s close friend, Kari Hillebrecht. “She had such a love in her heart for him. She just wanted to help him. Nobody else would; the state wouldn’t.”

Friends of Joseph Rockwood, who suffers from schizophrenia, also said they were increasingly concerned about his behavior. They feared he wasn’t taking his medication in recent months, so they sought help from his caseworkers, doctor and pastor.

They say his downward spiral could have been prevented, and some blamed Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, where he had a caseworker and a physician.

“I really feel if they were doing their job, then none of this would have happened,” said Kim Reinecker, a friend of Rockwood’s who worked as his housekeeper. She said she’s also a client of Cascadia. “How far does a mentally ill person have to go before the mental health system will listen?”

Amy Baker, director of outpatient services for Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare Inc., said she couldn’t talk about Rockwood’s case, citing federal privacy laws. But Baker said her organization must balance the needs of its clients with their civil rights and has to show that clients are a danger to themselves or others in order to put an involuntary hold on them.

“For the thousands of people we serve, there are people we work with who really want these services, and some people who really don’t want these services,” Baker said. “We have to honor people’s civil rights when we work with them. ”

Hillebrecht said Theresa Rockwood spoke at length about her brother’s troubles during their last lunch together, on Oct. 28, just hours before Theresa went to visit him. Hillebrecht and Rockwood met 15 years ago when Rockwood, who was a nurse, cared for Hillebrecht’s seriously ill infant daughter.

Hillebrecht said Theresa Rockwood told her she wanted to visit Joseph before returning home to Hood River, where she recently bought a home. Hillebrecht urged her not to go. The siblings’ last contact, during the summer, took a dangerous turn. Theresa had locked herself in a room at her brother’s apartment and called 9-1-1 because he was acting in a threatening manner.

“She knew he was getting worse and worse. She said she’d keep her space, never would get close enough to him,” Hillebrecht said. “She knew to be careful. I think she went back for one last try because she knew he was being evicted, and he would be on the street.”

When Hillebrecht hadn’t heard from her friend in the days that followed, and learned Friday that she had left her beloved collie, Lacey, alone at home, she panicked and drove straight to Joseph Rockwood’s Southeast Portland apartment. She found Theresa’s car in the parking lot.

“When I found her car, I knew something was wrong,” Hillebrecht said.

Police were called to the apartment complex at 11614 S.E. Division St. at 11:39 a.m. After repeated knocks went unanswered, police entered the third-floor unit and found Joseph Rockwood. He denied anyone else was in the one-bedroom apartment. Officer Robert Slyter discovered Theresa’s body on the bathroom floor.

At the discovery, according to an affidavit filed in court, Joseph Rockwood blurted out to officers, “Just my dead sister, with the Holy Moses picture on the wall beside her.”

He added, “I didn’t mean to hide anything.”

The officer found a blood-stained knife with a broken blade on the kitchen counter.

Reinecker said she used to clean his house about two days a week, but in recent months her husband was afraid to let her visit Joseph alone.

“I know he was off his meds. I’d go over to his house, and there would be cockroaches, and mice and stuff. It smelled like feces and urine,” she said. On Oct. 12, she and her husband wrote a letter to his Cascadia caseworker and doctor, telling them of the unsanitary conditions in his home, his three blaring TVs kept on to reportedly block out the voices in his head, and his increased weight. Rockwood weighed 450 pounds when booked at the jail.

In her last e-mail to her Illinois aunt, Theresa Rockwood wrote of her frustrations. Her brother refused all treatment and would not allow his caseworkers to work with him in the past year. When they’d visit, he’d “snap out of it” and convince them that he was OK. She said she was no longer comfortable one-on-one with him.

Hillebrecht says she’s more upset with the state mental health system than she is with Joseph Rockwood.

“I think if the state would have heard Theresa’s cry for help and would have done something,” she said, overcome with tears. “His sister was the one who truly, literally laid her life down for him.”

Jailed patient returned to state hospital

Jailed patient returned to state hospital
Man says he feels no remorse for attention focused on the facility

By Alan Gustafson • Statesman Journal
November 2, 2008

Michael Sands

Michael Sands

Oregon State Hospital escapee Michael Sands has been moved back to the same psychiatric facility that he bolted from in July.

Until recently, Sands had been locked up at the Marion County jail, awaiting trial on multiple felony charges stemming from his dramatic escape and subsequent clashes with Salem police — events that spurred an overhaul of security at the state-run mental institution.

Contacted twice this past week on maximum-security Ward 48C in the state hospital’s antiquated J Building, Sands said his behavior prompted officials to return him to the psychiatric facility.

“I guess the jail found it unacceptable,” he said. “I was banging on the walls, shouting, stuff like that. Nothing major.”

Sands brought attention to security flaws at the 125-year-old psychiatric hospital when he slipped out of a locked treatment ward July 11. He reportedly carjacked a vehicle in West Salem, rammed a police cruiser and tried to grab an officer’s gun before he was subdued with Taser shocks.

After being transferred back to the state hospital from a county jail cell, Sands is undergoing psychiatric testing — called an aid and assist evaluation — to determine whether he’s mentally competent to stand trial and make other decisions about his case, officials said.

Sands said he’s not concerned about the outcome of the criminal charges against him.

“I don’t worry about it, you know what I mean,” he said. “I like to think about things that are more important.”

Sands said he’s keenly interested in rebellion and warfare in Congo, political change in Israel and the presidential election in the United States. He initially said he was eager to vote by mail in Tuesday’s election but later reversed himself.

On Wednesday, Sands said: “I’m really interested to see if I’m going to be able to vote. It’s an important thing that I vote. I’d like the whole world to know that I support Barack Obama. … I think he’s genuine, true and correct in everything he’s ever done.”

In Oregon, state prisoners and county jail inmates are not allowed to vote. However, state hospital mental patients — Sands included — are eligible to vote. Provisions of the Oregon Constitution extend voting eligibility to individuals “suffering from a mental handicap.”

On Friday, Sands said he had changed his mind and would bypass Tuesday’s election. He described not voting as an act of protest.

“I think there are people in worse positions than me, like in prisons, who can’t vote at all,” he said. “So I’m kind of protesting the whole vote.”
Escapee apology

A state official said Sands recently called her to let her know about his return to the state hospital and to apologize for his headline-grabbing escape.

“He said he wanted to apologize for causing us problems, and I said, ‘Well, I appreciate that, but, you know, you got yourself into quite a fix,’ ” said Mary Claire Buckley, the executive director of the state Psychiatric Security Review Board.

The board monitors hundreds of state hospital patients who were found guilty of crimes but insane at the time, resulting in stints of psychiatric treatment instead of prison terms.

Sands initially was sent to the state hospital in 2004 after he tried to stab a police officer in Curry County. After being conditionally released in 2005 to live in a group home, Sands was sent back to the hospital in February after he hijacked a vehicle in Clackamas County.

Pending charges against him in connection with his July escape include unauthorized use of a vehicle, robbery, escape, attempting to elude a police officer, assaulting a public safety officer and criminal mischief.

Sands escaped from the thinly staffed hospital about 1:30 a.m July 11. He overpowered a staffer and took her keys to open a security gate on a treatment ward in the hospital’s five-story 50 Building.

Taking an elevator to the first floor, Sands reportedly took a security badge from a second employee and was scanned out of the secure building.

Six hours later, the escapee carjacked a vehicle at Wallace Marine Park in West Salem, police reports show.

Police gave chase when the stolen car was spotted crossing the Center Street Bridge leading to downtown Salem.

On Commercial Street NE, Sands suddenly slammed on the brakes and rammed a patrol car driven by Officer John Manitsas, police reports say. Sands took off on foot, and the veteran officer pursued him. The suspect turned and charged the officer, reportedly trying but failing to grab the officer’s Taser and firearm.

Police said Sands remained combative after other officers arrived. He was clashing with a police dog when Taser shocks subdued him. Taken to Salem Hospital for X-rays and treatment, Sands made another attempt to escape — this time from the radiology department while wearing handcuffs and leg irons. He was collared by officers and hospital staffers.
Troubled history

Psychiatric reports obtained by the Statesman Journal show that Sands, 27, has cycled in and out of psychiatric facilities since 2003.

He first entered the mental-health system in April 2003, when he took off his clothes in the middle of New York City and was hospitalized there for 11 days. At that time, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and treated with anti-psychotic medication.

About a year later, Sands, then working as a bartender in Miami Beach, suffered another psychotic episode and was hospitalized again in March 2004.

Two months later, Sands, by then in Oregon, had another relapse that required hospital treatment. In May 2004, he was treated at Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay.

Several months later, in November 2004, Sands was committed to the Oregon State Hospital after pleading guilty except for insanity for trying to stab a police officer in Curry County.

After Sands spent about a year in the state hospital’s forensic program, the Psychiatric Security Review Board conditionally released him to a Portland group home in 2005. He reportedly fared well for two years, and the review board placed him on the least restrictive form of community supervision.

In February, however, Sands was arrested in Clackamas County for a series of vehicle crashes and carjackings. After serving a 90-day jail sentence, Sands was sent back to the state hospital.

On July 2, the review board turned him down for another conditional release. Nine days later, Sands escaped.

In the wake of his escape, hospital officials conducted intensive security reviews, clamped down on patient passes and increased staff supervision for on-grounds and off-grounds patient outings.

Sands said Friday that he felt no remorse about focusing attention on the state hospital.

“No, I think that was a good thing. If anything, it needed to have some attention brought to it. Did it bring the right kind of attention, though? Did it bring it to patient rights and stuff? If it did that, I feel great.” or (503) 399-6709