Staskal move raises concern
Michael Hertting, principal of Lapham Elementary School, 1045 E. Dayton St., did not mention a specific worry to Judge Michael Byron, but Hertting said:
“I am concerned about our children at Lapham as well as being concerned for the students at the alternative high school. … Any principal would advocate for the safety of his students.”
Hertting was the only member of the public to address the court. The alternative high school to which he referred is on the third floor of the Lapham building. Lapham is a primary school for kindergarten through second grade.
Staskal, 44, stabbed his younger sister, Marcy, to death in their Milton home in 1984. He was found not guilty of Marcy’s murder by reason of mental disease.
Byron approved Staskal’s conditional-release plan despite Hertting’s concerns and those raised by assistant district attorney Ray Jablonski and attorney Marc McCrory, who represented Staskal’s parents, Redgie and Melly Staskal of Milton.
While they expressed concerns, none cited any deficiencies in the plan developed under the auspices of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, the judge said.
“I can’t think of a more appropriate plan,” Byron said
Staskal is anticipated to move to Brighter Life Living, 924 E. Mifflin St., Madison, within two weeks.
Brighter Life Living is supposed to provide at least one staff member for every three residents around the clock, according to the plan.
The home is licensed for four residents and now has three, according to court testimony.
The two-week delay is necessary to hire additional staff and train them to deal with Staskal’s specific needs, Glenn Larson, the state’s conditional-release program manager, told the court.
Except for a brief stay at a group home in Eau Claire late last year, Staskal has lived at Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison since his trial.
Byron ordered Staskal’s conditional release in January 2007, but it took months to find a group home willing to accept Staskal.
Staskal lived in Eau Claire for only a matter of days.
He started having violent daydreams that his conditional-release team thought were triggered by stress and could indicate that his mental condition was worsening.
In December, the state asked Byron to revoke the release order because daily psychiatric contact was not available to Staskal in Eau Claire.
But the judge stood firm.
He ordered Staskal returned to Mendota while another plan was developed and another placement found.
Byron noted that Staskal has been living at Mendota without problems under less restrictive conditions than those supposed to be in place at Brighter Life Living.
“Mental-health issues are not like a common cold that can be cured overnight,” Byron said. “There’s always a risk.”
But the judge also noted that lawmakers and other, higher courts have decided that preserving or restoring a mentally ill person’s liberty justifies the risk to the person and the community.
Byron expressed confidence in the plan and in the Department of Health and Family Services to monitor how Staskal responds.
Much of the treatment now available to Staskal at Mendota will continue to be available, Byron said.
The law doesn’t allow the court, lawyers or relatives to micromanage conditional-release plans, the judge added.