Group home for mentally ill announced in Corvallis

Group home for mentally ill announced
Gazette-Times reporter

Residence in Northwest Corvallis to house up to 5 people

A private social services provider plans to operate a group home for mental patients.
Benton County
Shangri-La Corp. closed on the property April 10. The Salem-based nonprofit did not immediately disclose the location to allow time to contact the neighbors. Notification was to begin Tuesday.

“I want to contact them personally,” Shangri-La Corp. CEO Jan Kral told the Gazette-Times last week. “They’re the people who are most interested and most affected.”

The 1,700-square-foot house is in a residential neighborhood between Northwest Satinwood Street and Highland Drive, a few blocks north of Walnut Boulevard.

Shangri-La will own the house but will operate it under a contract with Benton County. The house will serve as a residence for up to five patients at a time who have been discharged from the Oregon State Hospital and are transitioning back into the community. The residents will be primarily from Benton County, Kral said.

The people living in the house will be allowed to come and go freely but will be closely supervised, Kral said in a previous interview. There will be at least one staff member on duty at all times, including nights and weekends.

Unlike so-called “secure” facilities, the Chipmunk Place house is not intended as a locked dormitory for potentially high-risk patients who have been judged guilty of a crime except for insanity and are under the jurisdiction of the state Psychiatric Security Review Board.

However, Benton County Health Department Administrator Mitch Anderson has refused to rule out the possibility that some PSRB patients could be placed there if the board and the county agree they pose no threat to the community.

Shangri-La operates a nonsecure group home for civilly committed mental patients in Albany. It was initially intended to be a locked facility for PSRB patients, but that plan was scrapped in the face of fierce community opposition.

Corvallis already has one group home for people with mental health issues, the Janus House on Southwest Fifth Street. The transitional housing program is operated by the nonprofit Benton County Mental Health Association.

Kral said she planned to organize a public meeting soon to address community concerns about the facility. No opening date has been set for the group home.

Even if neighbors object, however, there’s probably no legal mechanism for blocking the facility. Because the home would be limited to five residents, it wouldn’t come under any local zoning restrictions, and the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against people with mental illness.

Virgil Wilson, co-president of the mid-valley chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said the group home will fill an important niche in Corvallis.

“We do not have enough housing for mentally ill folks, particularly people transitioning out of the state hospital,” Wilson said. “We have people being held in the state hospital for lack of places to send them.”

Shangri-La paid $300,000 for the Chipmunk Place house, according to a deed filed in the county recorder’s office.

The purchase was partially underwritten by the state, which holds a $150,000 mortgage on the property. If Shangri-La operates it as a group home for the 30-year term of the loan, the company won’t have to pay the money back, Kral said.

She added that the group home should provide something of an economic boost for the area. Although Shangri-La will be paid for its services by the county, Kral said the money comes in the form of “pass-through” funding from the state with matching Medicaid dollars from the federal government.

“This is new money coming either from the federal government or the state to Benton County that will result in somewhere between seven and nine new jobs,” Kral said.

“And it will create a household that will be buying groceries in the community and buying services in the community and helping the economy.”

Bennett Hall can be reached at 758-9529 or



Lawyer In Messenger Case Files Complaint Against Another Lawyer

Lawyer In Messenger Case Files Complaint Against Another Lawyer


The Hartford Courant

April 24, 2009

A lawyer who represented David Messenger — the man acquitted by reason of “mental disease or mental defect” of killing his pregnant wife, Heather, in 1998 — has filed a grievance with the Statewide Grievance Committee against a lawyer who briefly represented Messenger in 1998 and wants to represent Heather Messenger’s family during a public hearing next month.
David Messenger
In a letter to the grievance committee dated Feb. 12, attorney Kerry Tarpey said that John Klar, a Vermont resident and registered lawyer in Connecticut, has “engaged in conduct which is adverse to the interests of his former client, David Messenger.”

Meanwhile, Klar has leveled his own charge — that Tarpey has a conflict of interest.

Tarpey cited three examples in which she said that Klar violated the rules of professional conduct, including an online news article in 2008 in which Klar described David Messenger by saying: “He’s a monkey in a cage and he’s going to shake his bars until he gets his way.” Klar made the comment after a public hearing at Connecticut Valley Hospital last September, when Messenger’s lawyers withdrew their application for Messenger’s release from the state psychiatric hospital.

On May 1, the state Psychiatric Security Review Board is scheduled to discuss another application to grant Messenger a temporary leave. Although the state’s attorney’s office will represent the public during the hearing, Heather Messenger’s relatives will be the only members of the public allowed to speak.

Klar, a former Connecticut resident who was friends with David and Heather Messenger when they lived in Chaplin, hopes to represent the victim’s family.

In his response to the grievance committee Thursday, Klar said that he represented David Messenger during a “bond only” appearance immediately after Messenger killed Heather. Klar said that at the time, he acted only to refer Messenger to a defense lawyer and to “secure a reasonable and constitutional bond.”

Klar wrote that the “bond only” appearance allows lawyers to provide limited representation to defendants without compromising their ability to represent others — often co-defendants — who might have a conflict with the accused.

Klar argued that Tarpey — who handled Messenger’s civil matters — has a conflict because she also served as the executor of Heather Messenger’s estate. Klar said that David Messenger received about $217,000 from his wife’s estate and an unspecified portion of the $600,000 wrongful death claim against his and Heather’s homeowners’ insurance policy.

Tarpey declined to comment on the grievance, but denied having a conflict of interest. She said that Probate Judge Michael Ellsworth appointed her as executor in 2003 when the previous administrator of Heather Messenger’s estate resigned.

“Any actions that I took in that role were undertaken transparently and with probate court approval,” she said.

Christopher Slack, the grievance committee’s first assistant bar counsel, said Thursday that he could not comment.

“Because there’s no public information available, I could neither confirm nor deny anything about the letter,” Slack said, noting that information about grievances becomes public only when the grievance committee determines that misconduct might have occurred.


OS fears killer could move into town

OS fears killer could move into town
By Jenna Cho
Published on 4/17/2009

Old Saybrook – A man who killed his pregnant wife in front of their 5-year-old son in their Chaplin home 11 years ago may be moving into town, and town officials are scrambling to figure out the best way to protect their residents.

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously at its meeting Thursday to hire lawyers from the firm Pepe and Hazard, which has offices in Hartford, Southport, Waterbury and Boston, to represent the town’s interest in the matter. Legal fees are yet undetermined.

”I have concerns about my town and about the protection and safety of my residents,” First Selectman Michael Pace said after the meeting. “And that in no way prejudices anybody else’s rights. But I think we have rights, too.”

David Messenger, who was acquitted of the 1998 murder of 42-year-old Heather Ann Williamson Messenger by reason of mental disease or mental defect, is committed at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown, according to wire reports.

Hospital officials have applied for a “temporary leave” that would allow Messenger, 57, to rent out a ranch-style house at 15 Old Colony Road. The hospital is recommending that Messenger remain under the hospital’s care but be allowed to live on his own and drive his own car, according to wire reports.

The state Psychiatric Security Review Board will hear the temporary leave request on May 1. The state agency oversees people who are acquitted of crimes due to mental disease or mental defect.

Town residents Edward Roy and Joanne M. Eaccarino are listed in the town’s property records as owners of the Old Colony Road rental house. Edward Eaccarino could not be reached for comment Thursday evening, but Old Saybrook police Deputy Chief Michael Spera said at the meeting Thursday that Eaccarino canceled the lease agreement with Messenger upon learning of his past.

A video Heather Messenger’s sister posted on YouTube in September contains explicit details about the murder – Heather Messenger was bludgeoned to death with a 4-by-4 piece of wood and then stabbed with a fireplace poker – and snippets of a court ruling that raises concerns that David Messenger might act violently again.

The town only learned of Messenger’s intention to move into town after a Hartford Courant reporter contacted Pace on Wednesday for a story about Messenger’s possible release, Pace said.

”I have no idea what his interest is in Old Saybrook,” Pace said Thursday.

Pace has been in contact with Spera, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and state Rep. Marilyn Giuliano, R-Old Saybrook, to discuss the public-safety concerns Messenger’s possible release raise.

Pace said he was frustrated there is no law requiring notification to towns or cities when people such as Messenger are allowed to leave mental hospitals.

Old Saybrook officials for now are merely seeking legal advice on how best to protect the interest of the town’s residents, Pace said.

”I think this is definitely one of those things where you need specialized legal advice,” Pace said at the meeting.



“Old Saybrook-CT”


Hospital Seeks Temporary Leave For Patient Who Killed His Wife

Hospital Seeks Temporary Leave For Patient Who Killed His Wife


April 16, 2009

Connecticut Valley Hospital officials think David Messenger, acquitted by “reason of mental disease or mental defect” of killing his pregnant wife in 1998, is ready to leave the hospital and live in a community.

The hospital has asked the state Psychiatric Security Review Board to grant Messenger a temporary leave that would allow him to live in a neighborhood in Old Saybrook. If the board approves the request, Messenger would remain under the hospital’s care, said Ellen Lachance, the review board’s executive director.

Under the hospital’s proposal, Messenger would not live in a supervised setting and would be allowed to drive, use public transportation and shop with family and friends, according to a partial copy of the hospital’s temporary-leave application.

Lachance declined to release the full version of the application, citing confidentiality rules. Lachance said the “full scope” of the hospital’s request would be revealed during a May 1 public hearing at CVH. She said that, in general, patients who receive temporary leaves continue to receive psychiatric treatment and return to CVH for periodic visits.

The review board is an independent agency that oversees people who have been acquitted by reason of insanity. Temporary leaves can allow patients to spend as little as a few hours in the community or live in the community full time, Lachance said.

It is the first step toward rejoining society. The next step — which CVH has not requested — is a conditional release, which results in patients’ being discharged from CVH to live in the community under the care of a community provider.

The board sets the parameters for the patient’s activities and retains ultimate oversight in both scenarios, which could include case management, vocational training and other services, Lachance said.

In this case, CVH is asking that Messenger eventually be allowed to live in the community full time, she said.

In 2006, the security board gave Messenger permission to take unsupervised visits under certain conditions, but rescinded its approval when Middletown officials objected. In 2007, city officials raised an outcry when they found out that Messenger had been on dozens of supervised visits around the city.

Next month’s public hearing will be Messenger’s first appearance before the board in two years, Lachance said. He has been a CVH patient since 2001, when he was committed to 20 years at the public psychiatric hospital. Messenger killed Heather Messenger with a board and a fireplace poker in their Chaplin home in 1998.

Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, who has opposed allowing Messenger back into Middletown, said his biggest concern is how Messenger’s release would affect his city.

“If what he’s asking for places no burden on Middletown, then I don’t know that I have a whole lot to say about it,” Giuliano said. “I’ll leave that to the city’s legal department to analyze the whole thing.”

Giuliano’s reaction was much more measured than it has been in the past, when he threatened to “staple a police officer to [Messenger’s] butt” the moment Messenger left the hospital grounds.

Old Saybrook First Selectman Michael Pace did not respond Wednesday to several requests for comment.

The public can attend the 9:30 a.m. hearing, but only the victim’s family will be allowed to speak. The board will ask representatives from CVH to prove that Messenger could live on his own. An assistant state’s attorney is expected to attend and could argue against granting Messenger a temporary leave.


Portland stalking victim stabbed to death

Portland stalking victim stabbed to death
Posted by Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian April 15, 2009 20:24PM

Court records
Sean L. Kelly’s application for a stalking order against Ralph Williamson

Ralph A. Williams is still on the docket to appear in Multnomah County Circuit Court today to respond to his neighbor’s request for a permanent stalking order against him.
Ralph A. Williams
Instead, Williams, 54, faces murder charges, and his neighbor, Sean Liam Kelly, 40, lies in the morgue, dead of stab wounds and crushing blows to the head.

Kelly had been begging for help for at least the past month from Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare housing officials, police and the courts, citing his neighbor’s increasing threats of violence against him, court records show.
Sean Liam Kelly
He had hoped a judge would sign a permanent order today against Williams, who lived next door to him in an independent housing building for the mentally ill on North Chase Avenue.

Stalking orders between residents living side by side in special needs or public housing complexes aren’t uncommon. Judges can’t order people to move, making such orders a challenge. Judges say they must be creative to give the person seeking an order some sense of security and make sure they have a safety plan in place.

“It’s one of the most difficult things that we face,” Multnomah County Circuit Judge Cheryl Albrecht said. “In stalking orders, there’s just no ability to force someone to move from their residence. It’s not an effective remedy. It’s just not. You just hold your breath and try to be as direct and clear with the respondent about the scope of your order. It’s perilous at best.”

Kelly obtained a temporary stalking protective order against Williams last month, detailing ongoing harassment, intimidation, racial slurs and vandalism he endured from Williams.

Kelly, who was on unemployment and attending classes at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek campus, called police twice last month and documented the abuse, threats, property damage and growing tensions between him and Williams in back-and-forth e-mails to Cascadia Housing property manager Deborah Hicks.

In early March, Kelly said Williams poured six gallons of water into the gas tank of his car and then became aggressive and called Kelly a “snitch” after he reported the vandalism to police. He said Williams stuck his hand in his face, threatened to harm him, and banged on his apartment door while spewing profanity and racial slurs, according to the stalking order application.

“I was clearly not safe in my own house, and I began to be afraid of leaving my room,” Kelly wrote, noting Williams, at 6-foot-5 and more than 200 pounds, was much larger. Kelly was 5-foot-11 and weighed 160 pounds.

Cascadia had recommended mediation between the two men and urged Kelly “to stay clear” of Williams, although that was next to impossible because Williams lived in the neighboring unit and they shared a kitchen. Cascadia also recommended Kelly contact the courts or police and mailed Williams an eviction notice March 13, listing Kelly’s well-documented run-ins with Williams.

“I understand that you are fearful, and I would be too,” Hicks e-mailed Kelly on March 16. “I hope he doesn’t do anything to harm you, but you are totally within your rights to do whatever legally you can. … You want to do whatever you can to protect yourself while we wait this out.”

Cascadia does not staff the housing complex with a case manager, and the property manager is not on site.

Jim Hlava, Cascadia’s vice president for housing, said he could not talk about specifics but said the case would be reviewed internally.

Applicants must be assessed as “ready and capable” to live on their own, Hlava said. Cascadia also does a criminal background check and reviews the person’s documentation of income and disability.

Kelly moved to the North Chase Avenue unit early this year. It’s not clear how long Williams lived at the site. Williams also faced an unrelated domestic violence restraining order filed against him in March 2008, after he knocked a woman unconscious and stomped on her head, court records show.

Christy Brewfaugh, a close friend of Kelly’s mother, questioned why Williams was allowed to live in the building, considering his violent past.

Hlava said that when tenants don’t get along, Cascadia gives them options, whether it’s mediation or calls to police if there’s vandalism or violence.

“We take appropriate landlord action with the information that is given to us,” Hlava said. “We work within the landlord-tenant law.”

The court granted Kelly a temporary stalking protective order March 18. The next day, a Multnomah County sheriff’s deputy served the notice in person to Williams. It ordered Williams not to come into “visual or physical presence” of Kelly, speak with him or damage his property.

Just before 7 a.m. Tuesday, a 9-1-1 call came to Portland police, reporting an assault at the North Chase Avenue address. When police arrived, Williams was outside the building, and said, “Arrest me. … I stabbed him with a butcher knife.”

According to Williams, Kelly had come into the common kitchen area of the building, told Williams to get out of his way, and went back to his apartment. Williams told police he had “had enough” of Kelly, grabbed a butcher knife and waited for Kelly to return.

Once he returned, Williams told police, he “let the knife do the talking.”

He said he stabbed Kelly five to seven times in the upper chest and head. As Kelly tried to run across the street, Williams tried to stab him in the back, a probable cause affidavit says.

When the knife blade broke, Williams picked up a cinder block and struck Kelly in the face as he lay dying on the front yard of a neighbor’s home.

— Maxine Bernstein;


Reported feud ends in fatal attack

Reported feud ends in fatal attack
Stabbing – A resident of a Cascadia-run apartment is dead, and another is in custody
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The Oregonian Staff

North Portland resident Lee Jensen was awakened Tuesday morning by men’s voices.

When he looked out the window of his front door on North Chase Avenue, he saw a man lying on his back on his front lawn, and another across the street saying, “If that guy moves again, I’m going to kill him.”

The 40-year-old man found on Jensen’s front lawn died, police said. His name was withheld until family could be notified.

The man across the street, identified as 54-year-old Ralph Anthony Williams, was arrested on accusations of first-degree murder, the Portland Police Bureau said.

Both were residents of a two-story apartment building at 9126 N. Chase Ave. run by Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare for the mentally ill. The two reportedly had a long-running dispute that may have involved a restraining order, police said.

Portland homicide detectives spent most of the day sorting out the circumstances of the killing.

The victim was struck in the head with a concrete block and stabbed, Jensen said. The knife was thrown onto Jensen’s front yard.

“I saw him take his last breath,” said Jensen, 66. “Over the last 30 years, I’ve killed more than a hundred deer and gutted them out. But to see something like this is so totally different. I’m still at the point where I’m going to throw up. I’m almost overwhelmed with dread.”

Jensen said he called 9-1-1 when he saw the body on his front lawn. He said the other man stayed outside, across the street, looking agitated, until police arrived.

North Precinct officers were first called at 6:53 a.m. A caller from the apartments reported someone violating a restraining order. When police arrived, they found the dead man on Jensen’s property.

Cascadia mental health care workers also were called to the scene.

Detectives were examining evidence that suggested the dispute or fight began at the apartment building and continued across the street. By 10 a.m., the victim’s body remained on Jensen’s front lawn, a yellow tarp concealing all but one leg.

The suspect, Williams, was arrested at the scene and was being cooperative, said Detective Mary Wheat, a police spokeswoman. He was treated at a local hospital for minor injuries.

The building is managed by Cascadia and is designed as independent housing for people with mental illness, said Jim Hlava, Cascadia’s vice president for housing. Cascadia has a property manager who checks on the building but is not a clinical manager.

“It’s a horrible, horrible tragedy. I think we’ve all been really shocked by this,” Hlava said.

Meena West, who lives nearby on North Newark Street, said she noticed the police cars and yellow police tape in her neighborhood early Tuesday and went outside to see what happened.

“A police lady told me there was a fight between two mentally challenged people. One was assaulted and killed,” West said.

West said she decided to take her children to school instead of allowing them to walk to the bus stop.

Tuesday’s stabbing came nearly a year after a stabbing at the same apartment building involving two other men.

On March 23, 2008, the Portland police Special Emergency Reaction Team used tear gas to force a 46-year-old man out of a bathroom he locked himself in at the home, after stabbing another resident, age 51. Neither of those men was involved in this stabbing, Wheat said.

Maxine Bernstein: 503-221-8212;


Beavercreek killer will be transferred to Pendleton facility

Beavercreek killer will be transferred to Pendleton facility
by Rick Bella, The Oregonian
Friday April 10, 2009, 4:45 PM

A state panel has agreed that convicted killer Christopher Darrell Persyn of Beavercreek should be transferred from the Oregon State Hospital in Salem to a secure residential facility in Pendleton.

The state Psychiatric Security Review Board said Persyn should be transferred to the newly opened 16-bed Pendleton House as soon as there is an opening, said Mary Claire Buckley, the board’s executive director. The facility, built on the grounds of the old Eastern Oregon Training Center, is fully fenced.

“At first, residents aren’t even allowed into the fenced area without staff members present,” Buckley said. “It is a very secure facility.”

Buckley said the only difference between the state hospital and Pendleton House is the frequency of psychiatric care. Pendleton House residents are visited by a staff psychiatrist only once a week. Staff psychiatrists are on call 24 hours a day at the state hospital. Buckley said Persyn proved to the satisfaction of hospital staff that he did not need 24-hour psychiatric care.

Persyn, 37, pleaded guilty-but-insane for killing his father in 1998, then stabbing his 13-year-old nephew and strangling his 10-year-old niece. The children survived, though the nephew suffered brain damage.

Clackamas County sheriff’s deputies pepper-sprayed Persyn and shot him three times in his legs before they could subdue him.

After his plea, Persyn was sentenced to a life of supervision under the review board.

— Rick Bella;