Staskal release plan OK'd
Rock County Judge Michael Byron on Wednesday approved a conditional-release plan for Staskal without a specific new placement.
Staskal will continue to live at Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison until the state Department of Health and Family Services finds him a new home in Dane County. It was unclear, however, whether the public will learn where Staskal will live through a public hearing in open court.
Staskal, 44, a former Milton resident, killed his younger sister, Marcy, in their Milton home in 1984. He was found not guilty by reason of mental disease and was sent to Mendota.
But in January 2007, Byron ordered him released conditionally—over the objections of his parents, Redgie and Melly Staskal of Milton, and despite split psychiatric opinions on whether Staskal should be released to the community.
The state has not been able to find a new home for Staskal.
In court Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Ray Jablonski asked Rodney Miller, who oversees the department’s conditional-release program, if the department would notify the court of a new home for Staskal ahead of such a placement so the district attorney’s office could check out the proposed placement.
“We will comply with whatever the court orders,” Miller replied.
But none of the attorneys involved—Jablonski; Staskal’s lawyer, Phillip Brehm, or the attorney for Staskal’s parents, Marc McCrory—heard the judge issue such an order.
Noting that he could not comment on pending cases, Byron declined after the hearing to expound on his statements in court.
During the hearing, the judge noted that the conditional-release law for people found not guilty by reason of mental disease is different from the law regarding release of sex offenders. The sex-offender release law requires public disclosure of an address; the conditional-release law does not, Byron said.
The judge did say: “The department has legal custody of Mr. Staskal. It’s obvious to the court that once placement is made, the placement can be changed without notice to the court (but) perhaps to the local sheriff. …
“I think it would be a good idea for the department to notify the (Dane County) sheriff. …
“Maybe then we can focus on the real issue, rather than running around and trying to disrupt Mr. Staskal’s re-entry to the community.”
McCrory argued that if the judge does not formally approve a specific new placement, he would cede judicial authority to the Department of Health and Family Services, which is part of the executive branch of government.
“If the plan is to keep him at Mendota, we don’t think there’s a problem,” said McCrory, who then used a baseball trade analogy: “But we can’t have a ‘player to be named later’ regarding placement. It’s OK if they come back to you (Byron) to get approval of a placement.”
If the state’s plan is to place Staskal “somewhere, some place … you didn’t get to do your job,” McCrory told the judge.
Brehm said that while he didn’t hear a court order regarding notification of placement, “in a practical sense that’s what’s going to happen.”
Staskal’s parents fear their son will kill again if released to a group home. They think he is best served at Mendota because of its safety, security, structure and professionally staff.
The conditional-release plan calls for Staskal to have more experiences in the community outside of Mendota before he leaves the institution. He will be escorted on such excursions and activities for at least 30 days.
“The need for this escort will be re-assessed at the end of 30 days,” according to the plan.
“We will try to get him involved in as many community activities as possible,” Miller said.
After the hearing, Melly Staskal echoed the thoughts of many in the courtroom: “I’m not sure I understand it. But it’s kind of scary to me because I don’t understand all that was said in there. … I think the placement is very important because Mark will be spending a good deal of time at that placement.”
Starting to cry, Melly Staskal said: “We’re Mark’s parents. But we’re Marcy’s parents, too. I don’t believe Marcy’s name was ever mentioned today, and she’s suffered the biggest loss.”
She strongly objected to her son being released without a judicial OK of where and how he will live.
Two placements did not work out.
Staskal started having violent daydreams at a group home in Eau Claire, and the Department of Health and Family Services returned him to Mendota.
The department at the time also asked Byron to rescind his conditional-release order.
The judge did not.
Recently, the owner of a group home in Madison backed out of a proposed placement after the home’s location became known and the public erupted in concern and criticism.