AUGUSTA — A Riverview Psychiatric Center patient found not criminally responsible for the January 1995 killing of his father recently won a judge’s permission to have up to an hour of unsupervised time.

So long as that time is spent taking a guitar lesson or purchasing a guitar.

Robert E. Bowie, formerly of Hebron, has sought four times to change the conditions under which he is held at the Riverview Psychiatric Center.

In a separate case heard in Kennebec County Superior Court, Enoch Petrucelly was given an additional two hours of time he can spend with his family in Palmyra. He was previously permitted to spend up to four hours a day in “unsupervised, unstructured community activities” as long as he attends all his treatment activities.

Petrucelly was found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity for stabbing his brother to death on North Haven island and committed to state custody in July 2009. Last July, a judge granted Petrucelly, who lives in a supervised group home on Glenridge Drive in Augusta, up to 24 hours of free time a week so he could seek employment, a feat that was proving difficult given his history.

The court rulings highlight the close monitoring of 88 people placed in the custody of the commissioner after being found not criminally responsible for various offenses, including murder.

Despite recent public concern about group homes in Augusta neighborhoods housing such patients, Riverview Superintendent Mary Louise McEwen said these patients are watched closely and are least likely to attack staff or peers.

If any changes are sought in the cases involving homicide, the Office of the Maine Attorney General insists on a court hearing. Those changes can include more time away from the hospital, whether supervised or unsupervised, as well as more time away from group homes in the Augusta community. Patients can petition the court for changes once every six months; however, few petition that often.

The next scheduled hearings on Riverview petitions are set for 8:30 a.m. May 31 in Kennebec County Superior Court.

‘He is a very sick person’

In Bowie’s case, each time he has petitioned to change the conditions under which he is held, his aunt, Elsie Dill, his late father’s sister, comes to court to object.

By the time Bowie was 27, he had been admitted to the Augusta Mental Health Institute, Riverview’s predecessor, a total of 16 times. And in the two years prior to the attack on his father — stabbing him more than 30 times and slamming a sledgehammer into his head — Bowie was in and out of jail 30 times, Dill said.

Many of those episodes were caused by his refusal to take medication, Dill said.

“I don’t want him out unless he’s changed a whole lot,” she said. “We are taking precautions because of his history.”

Those precautions include a new security system at her Franklin County home.

“Until they can guarantee public safety, I will continue to oppose release or any change in conditions, as long as I can,” Dill said. “He definitely should be monitored. He is a very sick person. He always will be. Like the judge said, it’s the nature of the illness not to want to take the medication.”

Dill suggested to the judge if she were to allow Bowie unsupervised time in the community, he needed to wear a device that allows the hospital to track his whereabouts.

By March 2011, Bowie was permitted to be away from the hospital for up to four hours in a group of up to three patients supervised by one Riverview staff member. So far, he has only used up to two hours at a time.

“He has had no unsupervised time since 2005,” Dr. William Nelson testified at Bowie’s most recent hearing. “Just as a precaution, we’ve thought it wise to start off more slowly than with other clients.”

Bowie, who has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and substance abuse disorder in remission, also suffers from anxiety and some obsessive-compulsive and avoidance traits, Nelson testified. Bowie had more privileges six or seven years ago, but they were withdrawn after he attempted suicide, Nelson said.

Music has proved a good therapy for him, doctors said.

“He has exhausted the abilities of guitar instructors at the hospital and practices and plays guitar a couple hours a day,” Nelson said.

When Justice Joyce Wheeler limited Bowie’s unsupervised hour to music lessons or guitar shopping, Dill left the courtroom happy.

“Basically he’s still being supervised for all but one hour, and that is a time he is doing something specific,” Dill said.

Re-engaging with family

In the case of Petrucelly, Russell Kimball, a physician’s assistant working in psychiatry at Riverview, testified that records show Petrucelly’s psychotic behavior stopped within months of his admission to Riverview in the fall of 2008. He killed his brother in August that year.

But even though the 27-year-old now displays no evidence of psychosis, he continues to have issues with “poor judgment,” Kimball said. A January Riverview report described Petrucelly’s attempt to bring a Satanic Bible to a patient at the hospital, the same patient he earlier supplied with pornographic material.

As a result, the hospital banned Petrucelly from visiting the patient.

Petrucelly has a diagnosis similar to Bowie: schizoaffective disorder, depressed type.

He works out at a local gym and takes meditation classes at a community center, among other activities. Petrucelly’s mental conditions are treated through psychotherapy.

Witnesses assured the judge during a recent hearing that the lack of other mental illness diagnoses is the main reason Petrucelly’s recovery has gone more swiftly than Bowie’s.

Petrucelly’s attorney, Harold Hainke, who also represents Bowie, said the additional hours will allow Petrucelly to “work on re-engaging with his family after all that’s happened to him and his family.”

The visits can occur up to twice a month and are supervised by Petrucelly’s mother, who has undergone training by Riverview staff.

Betty Adams — 621-5631
badams@centralmaine.com