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"She wrote that she's going to get out and finish the job that she was meant to do. She said she wants Peter dead, simple as that. She was unhappy for a very long time with Peter. I think she wanted a woman, basically. And she said she has another person in her head, a little boy talking in her head."

Psychiatrists on both sides of the Spitz case ruled out any possibility of a multiple personality disorder. But Martinez says Teresa's friend claimed to have met the little boy when the pair celled together: "She said sometimes they'd be talking, and the little boy would come out and start cussing her out, that she was a bitch and if she fucked with her, she'd kill her, too. And she'd just say, 'Teresa, tell the little boy to go to sleep.'"

Martinez believes she saw a glimpse of Teresa's darker side the one time she visited her in jail, accompanied by her ex-cellmate. "She comes off as very smart, someone who can trick you into believing everything she says," Martinez says. "I was expecting this lady to be real sad — but not even a little bit, dude. She liked being there. She liked the attention she got."

Peter Spitz and Teresa Dickey posed on the occasion of their first date, in 1998.
Anthony Camera
Peter Spitz and Teresa Dickey posed on the occasion of their first date, in 1998.
Teresa Spitz seemed to adore Peter's mother, Mariko Shida, shown here with grandson Benjamin.
Anthony Camera
Teresa Spitz seemed to adore Peter's mother, Mariko Shida, shown here with grandson Benjamin.

Martinez showed the letter to Peter Spitz, who arranged for it to be turned over to the defense team. It was never mentioned at trial.

After she'd been at the state hospital for a year, Teresa filed for divorce and petitioned the court to change her name. "She told me that was part of her therapy," Spitz recalls, "and that changing her name would make it easier for her when she got out. As slow as I am, that's probably when it dawned on me that it was over."

******

In court documents, CMHIP officials describe the progress Teresa Lynn has made over the past five years in glowing terms. In less than five months, she was moved from a maximum-security forensic unit to one that falls somewhere between intermediate and minimum security. And she went from being highly monitored in all her activities to what's known as ONGU, or on-grounds unsupervised privileges, meaning that her movements are far less restricted or observed.

Lynn has taken a battery of classes and therapy sessions and has become a "peer coach" in a program that allows her to mentor other patients. "She is pleasant and displays a good sense of humor with both patients and staff," reads one report. "She has demonstrated both that she is responsible and a good role model for her peers."

Lynn didn't respond to a request for an interview, but it's clear that she's a rising star in an intensive, highly confidential treatment process that's supposed to prepare people judged criminally insane for an eventual return to society. The state hospital has more than 300 such patients at any given time; roughly half of them are on some form of conditional release or community placement. The average length of stay for a patient found not guilty by reason of insanity is less than nine years. CMHIP claims to have successfully released more than 150 of its long-term court commitments over the past decade, a decision that's ultimately made by a district judge.

Spitz says his ex-wife has an e-mail account, a cell phone and other privileges. Aside from a couple of reported incidents in which she was observed "attempting to engage in sexual activity with a male peer," she has no history of misconduct and isn't considered an escape risk. Early last year, Judge Michael Spear ruled that she could be granted "temporary physical removal" status, allowing her to leave the hospital on shopping trips and other community outings, provided that she stays within five feet of a staff member at all times.

Hospital officials are now pushing for "full" removal status for Lynn, a major step that will allow her to leave hospital grounds unsupervised — first for short periods of time, and then, gradually, for more sustained trips. The district attorney's office has objected, and the matter is set for a hearing before Spear next month. "The question is no longer if she's criminally liable, but whether she's a danger to herself or others," says Franks. "This is a very serious business. If you look at her prior conduct, there have to be concerns whether she's going to hurt someone else in the future."

CMHIP superintendent John DeQuardo points out that his patients haven't been convicted of a crime and consequently don't have a fixed sentence to serve. He's frustrated that there's a public perception that people who commit violent acts because of a treatable mental illness deserve to be locked away forever, even if they respond well to medication and therapy.

"People are not here to do time," he says. "Their return to the community should be driven by their progress in their individual treatment plan. But this has become a completely politicized process. You have district attorneys who care less about the patient's record in treatment than their own reputations, and there are some cases that are just media circuses."

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