Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Double Tragedy

From the November 3, 2012 Arizona Republic comes a double tragedy:
Jesus Ricardo Murrieta will turn 22 this month, but he will celebrate his birthday in an Arizona prison, where he will live for the next 22 years after being sentenced for a 2011 murder he might never have committed had Phoenix police known he’d escaped from the Arizona State Hospital.

Murrieta killed April Maria Mott in her apartment near 32nd Street and Osborn Road in August 2011, three months after he’d escaped from the hospital’s civil unit by stealing the badge off a security guard and running out of the facility.

The hospital’s initial response was to treat Murrieta’s departure as an escape, prompting staff to file a missing-persons report with Phoenix police.

That report was rescinded a day later, after hospital administrators and doctors determined that Murrieta had been admitted to the facility voluntarily.
Murrieta had a long history of mental illness and legal problems, starting with bad parents:
Murrieta was born to drug-addicted parents in southern Arizona who had their parental rights severed, leaving Murrieta and his siblings in the care of abusive grandparents, attorneys told Stephens.

Murrieta first attempted suicide when he was 18, leading to a series of commitments to mental-health facilities in Tucson and Phoenix. He was using methamphetamine when he killed Mott, the attorneys said.
 Mott was a paranoid schizophrenic whose symptoms were not initially recognized, but he was in and out of state mental hospitals.  It is hard to read this account and see what part deinstitutionalization played in it -- but it seems hard to imagine that Murrieta's voluntary commitment after a suicide attempt is not related to this.  At a minimum, Arizona's mental health system seems to have failed Murrieta, Mott, and their families.

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