WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Life for the man who tried to assassinate President Reagan 35 years ago has progressively become more normal, with greater freedom outside a psychiatric hospital, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than the record store where he whiles away so many hours.

John Hinckley Jr., now 61, has made purchases at Retro Daddio one might expect from a man of his generation: A book about The Who and an album by obscure ’60s rockers Ian and the Zodiacs that languished on the shelf for six months.

He is on a first-name basis with owner Jen Thurman, chatting her up about a Beatles poster he has that was signed by Paul McCartney. A photo on the wall of Jodie Foster – the actress he said he was trying to impress when he shot Reagan and three others in 1981 – seems to go unnoticed.

“I’m alone in the store frequently with him, and he’s never creeped me out,” Thurman said. “He’s very nice and very pleasant to be around.”

A judge on Wednesday ordered Hinckley’s permanent release from a mental hospital as early as next month. But Hinckley has long been building a life in this gated community along a Williamsburg golf course after years of supervised releases to his mother’s house, which most recently numbered 17 days a month.

Hinckley is expected to move into the gated community, known as Kingsmill, in early August. And while many have expressed dismay, several have welcomed the man often seen around town in a generic baseball cap. He cares for feral cats and drives himself around town in a Toyota Avalon, to movie theaters and fast-food restaurants.


Hinckley joins his now 90-year-old mother for Sunday services at the Williamsburg United Methodist Church, where Senior Pastor Bill Jones said the church “would not exclude him from our fellowship.”

Hinckley also has been volunteering at a Unitarian Church, cutting grass, raking leaves and building birdhouses, according to the judge’s 100-page order.

Hinckley also volunteers at the cafeteria of Eastern State Hospital, a local mental institution, according to Virginia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.

The life Hinckley is building comes with conditions: He must live with his mother for a year, and only after that can he live alone, with roommates or in a group home. If his mother becomes unable to supervise him, his sister will come to Williamsburg until a more permanent solution is found.

It appears he has been looking forward to living permanently outside the hospital: “It’s really refreshing to be in a group with people who aren’t completely out of their minds,” he said, according to court documents.

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