On October 21, the heads of the Oregon State Hospital (OSH) and the Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB) today apologized to a victim, whose wife and 11-year-old daughter were killed by a mentally ill man, for not notifying him when the man escaped from OSH on Sept. 3. They also explained why he did not receive notice, outlined the steps they have taken to prevent similar incidents and pledged to seek funding for a computerized notification system.
The victim, Jon Benson, lost his wife and daughter in 2009 when Matthew Daniel Ingle’s car collided with theirs in Clackamas County while Ingle was experiencing schizophrenic delusions and under the influence of marijuana and anti-psychotic and anti-depressant drugs. With Benson’s approval, he was allowed to be found guilty but insane of two charges of Manslaughter in the Second Degree and a charge of Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants. He was committed to OSH and placed under the jurisdiction of the PSRB.
The trial judge also ordered that Benson was to notified if Ingle escaped. The Oregon Crime Victims Law Center, which represents Benson, filed a claim of violation of his rights to notice and to be treated with dignity and respect after the hospital and the PSRB failed not only to notify him of Ingle’s escape on Sept. 3, but to contact him when Ingle was apprehended on Sept. 20. Benson agreed to the meeting, in lieu of a public hearing on the claim, at OSU’s and the PSRB’s request.
At the meeting, OSU Superintendent Greg Roberts and PSRB Executive Director Mary Claire Buckley told Benson that the failure to notify him resulted from a change in computer systems at OSH.
“Years ago, we agreed that OSU would be responsible for notice for escapes from OSH,” Buckley said. “Their old computer system had a process for that. Then they changed computer systems, and that piece didn’t get switched over. They didn’t know it, and they didn’t know that they didn’t know it.”
Roberts said that as a result of this incident, OSH changed its system for notifying victims and “tightened up” its procedures for allowing patients like Ingle to be outside the institution. Ingle was on an approved walk with other patients and staff when he escaped to a car that was waiting for him. On Oct. 13, Ingle pled guilty to a charge of Escape in Marion County Circuit Court. His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 16.
Buckley told Benson that she had scheduled a meeting, for early December, to determine the cost of the agencies becoming part of the online victim notification system, VINELink, that the Oregon Department of Corrections has used for years. She noted that Crime Victims United of Oregon – whose president, Steve Doell, serves on OCVLC’s board of directors – and others previously had urged that the system be used for convicted defendants who had been placed under her board’s jurisdiction but that the costs precluded it. She pledged to search for funding for the system after its cost is established in December.
The OCVLC will follow-up with Buckley after that meeting.