AUGUSTA — A former Skowhegan woman found not criminally responsible for killing a Troy man on Christmas Eve 2009 has won a judge’s permission to move from Riverview Psychiatric Center to a nearby group home.
Karen McCaul, 50, had petitioned the court to take the next step in her recovery process.
The move will make her the first woman to go to the group home, which can house up to eight people. Justice Robert Mullen noted in his written order that the seven other residents there have all been found not criminally responsible for murder and have come from Riverview. The order follows a hearing May 16 in Kennebec County Superior Court.
Assistant Attorney General Laura Yustak Smith asked the judge to proceed cautiously and to limit McCaul’s unsupervised time if she was permitted to move from the state forensic hospital where she’s lived for the past four years to the group home on Glenridge Drive.
Smith said McCaul recently lost a volunteer job through no fault of her own and will lose her job in the kitchen at Riverview as a result of the move. She also recently lost her mother and a close friend.
“That’s an awful lot of upheaval,” Smith said.
McCaul also was treated recently for bladder cancer.
Smith asked for McCaul’s travel to be restricted to no more than a 20-mile radius from Augusta.
Relatives of Richard Howe, the man McCaul stabbed to death in her Skowhegan apartment, watched the hearing but did not address the judge. They also declined to speak to a reporter. They had submitted a letter to the judge before the hearing, and he told them he would try to address their concerns.
Howe’s body was found just inside the doorway of McCaul’s apartment on Dec. 24, 2009. Howe knew McCaul, who has a long history of mental illness, through his job as a volunteer driver for the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program.
At the hearing, Stephanie George-Roy, director of social work at Riverview, testified that McCaul had exhibited “no maladaptive or self-injuring coping strategies for the past two years.”
Riverview personnel and McCaul’s attorney, Hank Hainke, had advocated up to four hours of unsupervised time for McCaul. However, Debra Baeder, chief forensic psychologist for the State Forensic Service, which evaluates people for the court, recommended a three-hour limit.
Mullen’s order refers to McCaul’s lengthy history of substance abuse and phases in McCaul’s unsupervised time if all goes well after two months at the group home. The home on Glenridge was controversial in 2012 when the state closed three group homes on the grounds of the former Augusta Mental Health Institute and surprised city officials with plans to open group homes in Augusta on Green Street and Glenridge Drive.
The move prompted lawmakers to pass a law to require the state to notify municipalities 120 days before opening a group home.
In McCaul’s case, she will be permitted to be absent from Riverview and the group home if she is supervised by members of the Assertive Community Treatment team or group home staff members. She will be allowed to visit family members under supervision of people approved by Riverview or the team.
McCaul is permitted to be away from the hospital or her group home for up to 24 hours a week for volunteer, education or employment activities.
“The petitioner’s treatment providers opine that the petitioner’s ability to manage her anxiety and maintain emotional stability has improved greatly,” Mullen noted in his order.