Release approved for caseworker slaying suspect

May 21, 2012 - 9:45 PM

ST HELENS, Ore. (AP) — Before he was a suspect in his caseworker's stabbing death, Brent Redd told prosecutors and a judge that he was guilty of trying to strangle his mother to death in August 2005.

Redd said he was insane. The prosecutors and judge agreed, and in 2007, he was confined to the state mental hospital.

Within four years, three separate organizations would approve Redd for release into a community corrections program that put him in an apartment with a 10 p.m. curfew and twice-daily visits by a caseworker.

One of those caseworkers was found stabbed to death in Redd's apartment on Sunday. When he answered the door and saw a police officer, authorities say he ran. He remains under watch in a Portland hospital's intensive care unit, suffering from a non-life-threatening stab wound to the neck.

The slaying is a rarity for those released into community corrections by the state Psychiatric Security Review Board. Of the more than 1,400 people who have been found guilty except for insanity since 1978, about 15 have committed felony-level offenses.

In Oregon, the plea of guilty except for insanity for a serious felony is subject to acceptance by a judge, who must determine whether a person suffers from mental illness and presents a danger to others. If the plea is accepted, the defendant is committed to a state hospital and placed under the jurisdiction of the review board.

The chain of events that led from Redd's release from the hospital to his detention by police began in 2010, when the Oregon State Hospital said he was ready for community corrections, a way to let former patients ease back into society.

The process is initiated by the Oregon State Hospital, which recommends a patient be considered for community corrections. The next approval comes from the state Psychiatric Security Review Board.

In Redd's case, the review board said he was too dangerous to be released in July 2009, but signed off on his release in October 2010.

It's unclear what led to the change. Two of the three people who were on the panel that declined to release Redd in 2009 were on the panel that approved his 2010 release. The 2009 panel reviewed 20 court-admitted exhibits; the 2010 panel reviewed 34.

Redd then met with members of Columbia Community Mental Health, a nonprofit agency in St. Helens, who gave the final go-ahead.

"That's what the beauty of this system is," Mary Claire Buckley, the review board's executive director, said. "The agency that may well end up taking responsibility for his treatment gets a say, and in this case, they said yes. They did agree he was ready for conditional release."

Redd was sent to a 24-hour supervised-living group home where he spent seven months. He then transitioned — with the review board's approval — to a less-restrictive set of apartments where a caseworker visited him twice a day.

His caseworker, Jennifer Warren, was filling in on a weekend shift for his regular caseworker, Buckley said. Warren was declared dead at the scene.

Redd, 30, had a 10 p.m. curfew and was forbidden from drinking, using non-prescribed drugs or driving a car. He could only interact with his mother under supervision.

Dispatchers received a call at about 8 a.m. Sunday, directing them to Redd's apartment on a report of a disturbance, said St. Helens Police Chief Steve Salle. They then received more calls indicating that there had been a stabbing.

Salle said Redd answered the door and ran. He was detained after a short chase. Inside his house, Salle said police and medics found Warren's body.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends after this terrible incident," Columbia County Mental Health said in a statement Monday. "We are working closely with the proper authorities and have initiated an independent review to ensure the safety of our mental health workers."

They declined to comment Monday. Buckley said the review would begin once police complete their initial investigation.

Columbia County District Attorney Steve Atchison and Salle said they do not remember being notified of Redd's presence in the community. His guilty plea to attempted murder came in Wasco County, which is about 130 miles southeast of Columbia County.

Atchison and Salle said they may have been notified, but neither recalled it, nor did they have paperwork on hand reflecting their notifications.

Warren's death was the first time in 34 years that any client under the review board's jurisdiction has been accused of "a violent act of this nature."

Officials said there are currently 615 people under the board's jurisdiction, and 415 of those are under conditional release within the community.