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Judge affirms hospital release of man who killed his mother

Published: Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 - 11:02 pm
Last Modified: Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 - 7:45 am

A man who stabbed and bludgeoned his mother to death 10 years ago will be released to Sacramento from a state mental hospital within 10 days as a result of a judge’s decision Friday.

Superior Court Judge David W. Abbott affirmed his own order from two months ago even though a state-contracted agency won’t quite meet the conditions he originally imposed on Ronald Benjamin Toppila’s release.

State officials initially had planned to transfer Toppila from Napa State Hospital to a 90-day transitional living facility in Manteca. Now, he will be placed directly from the hospital into an unlocked Sacramento board and care home.

Citing patient confidentiality, officials from the Central Valley Conditional Release program have refused to identify the home’s location.

Abbott in November ordered the release of Toppila, 73, on the main condition that the patient takes his monthly anti-psychotic medication shots. The judge also ordered that Toppila see a psychiatrist twice a month, have contact with a licensed clinical psychologist at least once a week and have daily contact with a licensed clinical social worker.

Mark Grabau, a psychologist in charge of CONREP operations for the California Department of State Hospitals, told Abbott in court Friday that the program that acts as an outpatient monitor for his agency can provide the psychiatrist once a month, the psychologist every other week and the social worker five days a week.

Harbor Medical Group Inc., which acts as the Central Valley CONREP provider for the state hospitals, submitted a new, five-page treatment plan for Toppila to the court on Friday. It said he “will be fully aware of the precursors to his offense” and be able to “identify changes with his mental status prior to decompensation.” Toppila will be required to attend assorted therapy sessions for his mental illness and to know the medications he’s taking and their possible side effects, the plan maintains.

After a 30-day “blackout” period in which his phone calls and community contacts will be limited, Toppila will be allowed greater visitation privileges and be allowed to freely venture up to 2 miles away and for two hours at a time from the unidentified board and care home where he will be living.

Toppila could eventually become eligible for overnight visits and “come and go at will” for up to five hours without approval, the plan said. He might also at some time be able to be excused from program activities at the home, although he “must have acceptable activity such as family visits, volunteer work, job search and employment or peer support groups,” according to the plan.

Friday’s hearing had been scheduled at the request of Toppila’s lawyer, Robert Saria, to show why Harbor Medical Group shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for failing to meet the judge’s conditions on the patient’s release. Abbott later ordered state hospital officials to appear at the hearing. The issue of contempt went moot with the judge’s finding that the new plan works for him.

“I find that the treatment plan that has been devised for Mr. Toppila at the location in Sacramento is adequate to assure public safety, and Mr. Toppila’s safety and his continued progress, and I’m going to order his conditional release based upon the terms and conditions that have just been prescribed,” Abbott said from the bench.

Abbott noted that multiple members of Toppila’s family have attended the patient’s CONREP hearings since March and that they strongly support his release.

“It is apparent to me he has strong familial support and that there is going to be family involvement once he is released as an outpatient,” the judge said.

Toppila suffered from paranoid delusions that his mother, Hilda Tone, 86, had been been taken over by an impostor. He slashed her 52 times with a box cutter and beat her to death on Oct. 7, 2004, in her South Land Park apartment. A jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity.

Psychiatrists at Napa State Hospital have maintained for five years that he has responded well to anti-psychotic medication and that he would benefit from a community placement.

“It’s been a long road, but he got what he wanted,” Toppila’s attorney, Robert Saria said Friday after Abbott’s ruling. “I’m confident he’ll do fine.”

Sacramento prosecutors fought his release. Deputy District Attorney Donell Slivka said Friday she believes Toppila is still dangerous.

“We are disappointed with the court’s ruling because we continue to believe that Mr. Toppila is a danger to the community, especially with his placement in an unlocked board and care facility in a local residence,” Slivka said in a written statement. “The court’s further decision to allow CONREP to not fully comply with the additional conditions the court had initially imposed further raises our concerns for the safety of the community.”


Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

Read more articles by Andy Furillo



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