AUGUSTA — For the first time in a long time, Donald Beauchene, 74, will get some free, unsupervised time out of the state psychiatric hospital in Augusta.

Testimony at a hearing Friday at the Capital Judicial Center, indicated Beauchene probably would use that time to smoke, go out to eat with other former Riverview Psychiatric Center patients and maybe go to a movie.

Beauchene was committed to state custody in 1970 after a jury acquitted him in the 1969 slaying of a woman in Portland by reason of insanity.

Friday’s hearing was arranged after Beauchene had sought changes in conditions under which he is held at Riverview Psychiatric Center, which houses both forensic and civil patients.

He originally had filed a petition to be released from the facility, saying he wanted to live with a sister in Florida.

However, his attorney, Harold Hainke, modified that request formally during Friday’s hearing in front of Justice Donald Marden.

After listening to a number of witnesses, including the state forensic director, the assistant clinical director at Riverview and the nurse practitioner who deals directly with Beauchene, Marden said he would approve some free time for Beauchene off the grounds.

Beauchene already has some on-grounds unsupervised time.

Assistant Attorney General Laura Yustak wanted strict parameters.

“From the state’s point of view, any community time has to be pre-approved for a specific activity,” she argued. “If there’s a drop-off at a specific location for a specific activity for a specific period of time and he can be picked up afterward, that’s the type of first step that might be allowed.

“If it gets to the three- or four-hour maximum, it should be only once a day.”

Marden included some of those conditions in his ruling from the bench, saying that off-grounds time should be instituted incrementally up to four hours once a day, but he said details should be left to the discretion of the treatment team.

The changes were supported both by the hospital and the State Forensic Service, which evaluates forensic patients for the court.

Ann LeBlanc, director of the State Forensic Service, told Marden, “The main reason he’s in the hosptial is for containment and community safety.”

She said he now has achieved a level of comfort in the hospital surroundings that should minimize his desire to escape from it. Beauchene escaped twice from Riverview’s predecessor, the Augusta Mental Health Institute.

He spent 15 years in prison in New York for rape, sodomy and assault after his second escape in 1978, then five years in a Maine prison for the hospital escape. He has maintained he’s innocent of the New York charges.

LeBlanc, a board-certified forensic psychologist, said she has seen a change in Beauchene’s behavior in recent times, including his reaction to bad news, and said it was a good sign that he was no longer marrying and divorcing. He had six marriages and divorces up until 2006.

Both she and Dr. Judy Burk, a psychiatrist who is also Riverview’s clinical director, said Beauchene’s risk to the community would revolve around his tendency to form relationships with vulnerable females. However, LeBlanc said that monitoring would allow the hospital to know if Beauchene was forming that type of relationship.

Burk said Beauchene has been diagnosed with mixed personality disorder with anti-social and narcissistic traits and that he also might suffer from some post-traumatic stress disorder.

She also noted that he had spent three years in the community from 1973 to 1976.

Beauchene did not testify Friday. However, he did respond to the judge’s question about what “LINC” stood for, saying it was “Living IN the Community.”

The LINC Wellness and Recovery Center is on Memorial Drive in Augusta.

After giving his ruling, Marden told Beauchene, “I would hope you would take to heart what has been said in this courtroom today. I think thse people want to see good things happen to you and for you.”

Beauchene responded, “Thank you.”

Last year, Beauchene had asked to be discharged from the custody of the commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services; and if denied that, to be placed at a residence in Florida; or failing that, Maine. When that was denied, he appealed the ruling to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court.

That ruling was upheld in a decision issued in July.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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Twitter: @betadams