Staskal to be released to group home in Eau Claire

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Mike DuPre'
October 31, 2007
— Mark Staskal might be en route today from Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison to a group home in Eau Claire.

If not today, Staskal will live there soon. His conditional release from the mental hospital was approved Wednesday.

Staskal, 44, stabbed his sister, Marcy, to death in 1984 in Milton but was found not guilty because of mental illness. Marcy was 16.

Staskal has been living at Mendota since his trial.

Rock County Judge Michael Byron on Wednesday completed the legal process that started in January when he ruled that Staskal was fit for conditional release.

A court-ordered treatment plan developed by Lutheran Social Services under contract with the state Department of Health and Family Services includes around-the-clock supervision of Staskal. His whereabouts will be monitored electronically through an ankle bracelet.

Four other men now live at the group home—The Bernice & Genevieve Foundation, 3806 Woodcrest Court.

Sixteen other facilities rejected Staskal’s placement, according to court testimony Wednesday.

Group home co-owner Amy Golla testified Wednesday that Staskal could move in today, and Staskal’s attorney, Phillip Brehm of Janesville, said he would try to have Byron sign the release form as soon as possible.

Staskal was in court, wearing a blue jacket, black pants and leg shackles over brown loafers. He took notes, occasionally showing a message to Brehm.

The only emotion Staskal showed was a smile when the judge reminded those in court that Staskal was not a convicted killer because he was judged not guilty by reason of mental disease.

In phone calls Monday and Tuesday, Staskal declined to talk to a reporter.

Staskal’s conditional release comes over the objections of his parents—Redgie and Melly Staskal of Milton—and Bradley Venaas, deputy police chief in Eau Claire.

Redgie and Melly fear their son will kill again.

“As a father, I struggled with the guilt for years. I struggled with the guilt of a father taking responsibility for the safety of his children, all his children” Redgie said after the hearing.

“I struggled with that for years. I still do,” he said. “The next time, the blood will be on the judge’s hands, nobody else’s.”

Redgie and Melly hope their son will not again erupt in lethal violence.

But Melly added: “I understand it’s a beautiful home with really nice people, but I don’t think they know what they’re getting into with Mark.”

Golla testified that she worked in group homes for mentally ill adults for 3 1/2 years before opening The Bernice & Genevieve Foundation with Amy Tomsyck in March.

Both Golla and Tomsyck have college training in vocational rehabilitation but only Tomsyck has a degree, Golla testified.

The two women staff the group home in shifts from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday. Two other staffers supervise the home overnight and on weekends.

The other staffers have high-school educations and in-house or on-the-job training dealing with mentally ill residents, Golla testified.

At least one staffer always is at the group home, she said.

None has experience dealing with a person committed under the state’s criminal mental health statute, Golla testified.

“They’re really good girls with high expectations, but I don’t think that they’re capable of dealing with the complexity of Mark’s mental illness,” Melly said. “The staff at Mendota told us how hard he is to read.”

In a letter to Ray Jablonski, the Rock County assistant district attorney handling the case, Venaas also raised concerns about the group home’s staffing level and training.

Staffing appears to consist of only one person on duty at a time, Venaas wrote, and “the staff is not required to have any formal level of training or education prior to being hired. The staff is trained through an in-house process.”

In court, Venaas testified: “I felt the staff is not adequately trained to deal with a person like Mr. Staskal.”

He also testified that the group home did not notify or involve the Eau Claire community in its decision to accept Staskal.

Explaining his decision, Byron said: “The reality is when you formulate these plans, nobody wants a person like Mr. Staskal.”

That’s why state law doesn’t allow local zoning to preclude community-based residential facilities, Byron said.

“I remind you again that the hallmark of mental health commitment is the least restrictive setting. The law is the law. You may not like it, but the law is the law,” Byron said.

Staskal always has cooperated with his treatment and medication at Mendota and has never been violent or abusive there, the judge said.

Byron acknowledged that moving Staskal from Mendota to a community group home presents a risk. But the judge also said the security at the group home is comparable to the security at Mendota’s “super-minimum security” facility, where Staskal has been living.


The basic provisions of Mark Staskal’s conditional release and treatment plan are:

- Live in a community-based residential facility as long as deemed appropriate by his state-assigned probation agent and Lutheran Social Services case manager. The facility will monitor his medication, transport him to all appointments and supervise him 24/7.

- Must take all prescribed medication and cooperate with all recommended psychiatric treatment and other programs.

- Barred from drinking, using drugs or owning guns.

- Cooperate with electronic monitoring. He is barred from traveling outside Wisconsin and must receive permission to travel out of Eau Claire County.

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