Less than seven years after Teresa Lynn shot her husband in the face as he slept, killed her mother-in-law and considered drowning her eight-month-old son, an Arapahoe County judge has ordered her release from the state hospital, starting with unsupervised off-grounds trips and eventually leading to community placement.
The decision came despite strong opposition to the move by Peter Spitz, who was blinded but survived his former wife's rampage.
As recounted in my December cover story "Blindsided," Spitz testified in his wife's defense at her murder trial, which resulted in a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. He still maintains it was the right thing to do -- that Teresa doesn't deserve to be in prison.
But he's troubled by the conflicting diagnoses doctors have made concerning her mental state and the supposedly swift turnaround she's made in treatment at the Colorado Mental Health Insitute at Pueblo. Last week Spitz spoke out at the hearing held in Judge Michael Spear's courtroom to consider her doctors' request that she be granted "full temporary physical removal" to advance her treatment plan.
If the doctors are wrong about his ex's progress, he noted, they "risk eggs on their face." And if Lynn is still subject to violent delusions, he added, "I risk getting brains on my face."
But Judge Spear overruled prosecutors' objections to Lynn's release and discounted secondhand reports of a letter she allegedly wrote from jail several years ago vowing to "finish the job." The recipient of that letter has denied it contained any threats, while another party who once had possession of the document told Westword it was quite explicit: "She said she wants Peter dead, simple as that."
Since neither side could produce the actual letter in court, Judge Spear relied extensively on the testimony of Lynn's doctors at CMHIP, who praised her conduct and stated that her treatment now required greater freedom -- even though opinion among the experts was divided about the nature of her mental illness and whether she even should have been found not guilty by reason of insanity.
But the lack of a coherent explanation for the "psychotic break" that caused Lynn to attack her family matters little now. Once a defendant is found NGRI, the accused becomes a patient, not a criminal -- and there's an expectation that the "treatment" will fix things.
"The Court understands Mr. Spitz's concerns for personal safety and the safety of his child," Spear wrote in his decision, "but the Court cannot ignore the premise of Colorado's system of treatment when an individual is found not guilty by reason of insanity. The Court believes that the supervision the state hospital will apply will be for both the treatment of the defendant and the protection of the public, including Mr. Spitz."
Ironically, at present Lynn has more access to the couple's young son than Spitz does. The boy was placed in the care of guardians in the wake of the shooting, and Spitz has had conflicts with them over his son's care -- while Lynn, a longtime friend of the couple, has been permitted regular supervised visits. Spitz worries about the increase in those visits that will result from Spear's order, which will allow Lynn to come to Denver on three-day passes and eventually live and work away from the hospital.
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"I believe Teresa still poses a great threat to me and my son," he says. "I just don't see this story having a happy ending."
Look below to read Judge Spear's order:
More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Video: Peter Spitz tells how his wife shot him in the face while he was asleep."