A man who stabbed and bludgeoned his mother to death nine years ago has been recommended for placement in a community group home by a state-contracted agency.
In a report submitted to a judge scheduled to rule on the killer's effort to get out of a state psychiatric hospital, the Central Valley Conditional Release Program said that if Ronald Benjamin Toppila is released, ultimately "he will transition to a licensed Board and Care facility in greater Sacramento."
"The facility will provide 24-hours supervision and medication management," the program's report said. "In addition, the facility will prepare his meals and insure his living quarters are clean, organized and safe."
Toppila, who is now 72, was accused of murder in the Oct. 7, 2004, killing of his mother, Hilma Tone, who was 86. Authorities said he slashed her 52 times with a box cutter and beat her so badly he broke her larynx, ribs and jaw.
According to psychiatric reports, Toppila suffered from Capgras syndrome, a delusional disorder that made him think his mother's body had been taken over by some exterior force. Jurors in 2006 found him not guilty by reason of insanity. He was then placed in Napa State Hospital. In two court hearings in the past five years, Napa psychiatrists have recommended that Toppila be discharged from the hospital and placed into the conditional release program.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge David W. Abbott is hearing Toppila's most recent effort to get out of the psychiatric hospital. With the June 10 report now having been received, Abbott on Monday scheduled an Aug. 1 hearing for the district attorney's office to cross-examine the report's author, Rhonda Love, a licensed clinical social worker with the Harper Medical Group. The Harper group operates the Central Valley Conditional Release Program on a contract with the California Department of State Hospitals.
Toppila is a former employee of Child Protective Services in Sacramento who held a master's of social work degree. The report said its evaluators have examined him annually, and "We have found that for an extended period of time, Mr. Toppila's mental status has been stable."
"According to record, Mr. Toppila has been compliant with his treatment plan and objectives, medication regimen and unit rules and structure," the report said. "He has not exhibited any aggressive behavior. He has a viable wellness plan to further assist in managing his mental illness."
The report said Toppila "has shown good insight into his serious mental illness. He displays an understanding of his diagnosis and how it affects daily functioning." Toppila "is also able to identify the need" for him to take his medications, according to the report.
"He acknowledges his historical errors in judgement (sic) regarding the recognition of his mental illness and importance of his medication," it said.
The report said Toppila "met the criteria" for discharge, "evidenced by his long-term psychiatric stability and medication compliance."
Sacramento prosecutors have opposed Toppila's release, in both the 2008 hearing in which Judge Kevin J. McCormick rejected the recommendation then offered by Napa psychiatrists and the program, and in the proceeding now in front of Abbott.
They have presented evidence that Toppila is still a paranoid schizophrenic who poses a major risk to public safety if he comes off his meds. Napa psychiatrists disagree. They have insisted at Toppila's release hearings that he suffers only from major depression with severe psychotic features that can be controlled through his medications.
Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet, who appeared in court Monday on behalf of her office, declined to comment on the report.
Toppila's lawyer, Robert Saria, said the report "concurs with the treatment team at the state hospital" that his client "can be within the confines of their program" and "move on with his life."
"I think he will be under their care and custody for the rest of his life, too," Saria said. "I don't anticipate, nor does the family, a time where he will not be under the supervision of the conditional release program."
The June 10 report said that after his October 2004 arrest, Toppila began to stabilize as a result of his court-ordered medication. It said he began to experience symptoms of depression again when he underwent hip surgery in 2008 and inadvertently came off his meds.
"Once corrected, he re-stabilized," the report said.
The report included 10 pages of conditions Toppila must follow if he is released. One maintains that he abide by an 8:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and that he never be away from his "place of approved residence" for more than 10 hours.
Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.