Janesville70°

Staskal case back in limbo

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Mike DuPre'
May 16, 2008
— What now for Mark Staskal?

The same question was asked in November when Staskal’s placement in an adult group home in Eau Claire foundered.


Now, the adult group home in Madison that was to be Staskal’s new home in a matter of weeks, has backed out of a conditional-release plan approved Tuesday by Rock County Judge Michael Byron.


Late Thursday afternoon, the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) sent a fax to Byron saying that the group home provider told the department that the placement was no longer available for Staskal.


The correspondence reiterated the department’s opinion that the placement and conditional-use plan would have been successful in meeting Staskal’s treatment needs.


Staskal killed his younger sister, Marcy, in 1984. Found not guilty by reason of mental disease, he was sent to Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, where he lived until he moved to the Eau Claire home.


He lived in Eau Claire for only a matter of days.


The Janesville Gazette was unable to contact Jason Standish, owner of the Madison group home.


Staskal’s attorney—Phillip Brehm of Janesville—said he was told that it was a “difficult decision” for Standish.


Brehm said he was not given any specific reasons for Standish’s reversal.


But, Brehm said, it was his impression that the public outcry over Staskal’s being released from Mendota was a factor in the decision.


The turnabout means Staskal will continue to live in Mendota’s least-secure unit.


Nevertheless, DHFS still is under Byron’s order to develop a conditional-release plan for Staskal.


Presumably, Byron will schedule another court hearing to review Staskal’s status and conditional-release plans. The judge was unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon.


Byron ordered Staskal’s conditional release in January 2007 despite the objections of his parents and psychiatric opinions that were divided on whether he should be returned to the community.


His parents—Redgie and Melly Staskal of Milton—oppose his release because they fear he will become violent again, kill someone else or be killed in a violent incident.


The Eau Claire group home didn’t work out for Staskal because he started having violent daydreams that his conditional-release team thought were caused by stress.


The team thought the daydreams could indicate that his mental condition was deteriorating.


Staskal did not break any rules or act out while he was in Eau Claire. He has lived at Mendota under minimum or super-minimum security for years and has complied with the mental hospital’s rules, according to court testimony.


The conditional-release team thought Staskal needed daily psychiatric contact, which was available at Mendota, but such attention was not available to him in Eau Claire because he was not a voluntary resident of Eau Claire County.


Before finding the Eau Claire group home, DHFS contacted at least 16 group homes or other facilities in an attempt to find a suitable placement.


All 16 rejected Staskal.


They said he was either too big a risk or they did not have the appropriate mental health treatment program or expertise to accept him.


In November, DHFS asked that Byron rescind his order because of the conditional-release team’s concerns about the Eau Claire placement.


But the judge stood firm.


Byron ordered Staskal returned to Mendota, but he did not revoke his conditional-release order. He gave the state more time to develop another plan and find another home for Staskal.


The new home was supposed to be Brighter Life Living, 924 E. Mifflin St., Madison.



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