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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 4:21 am | Fair 41º


Judge to Review Medical Reports Before Ruling on Hatchet Killer’s Release

Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge on Thursday postponed ruling on the release of Nicholas Bendle, who used a hatchet to partially decapitate a man after a psychotic break in Santa Maria six years ago, saying he needs time to review various medical reports.

Santa Maria Judge John McGregor delayed a decision in the case until at least Dec. 4.

Bendle has been confined at Patton State Hospital, where medical professionals cited his “complete recovery” in recommending the release.

On the morning of Aug. 1, 2009, Bendle, then 20, attacked Frederick Holgate, 69, with a hatchet, partially decapitating him during an early morning walk on South Miller Street, just south of Stowell Road.

The two men did not know each other.

Two years later, Bendle pleaded guilty to first-degree murder as attorneys on both sides agreed he was legally insane at the time of the killing.

While informal talks about Bendle’s potential release have been ongoing for most of this year, Thursday marked the first time Deputy Public Defender Patty Dark and Deputy District Attorney Kevin Duffy submitted the matter to the court officially seeking a ruling regarding the release into an outpatient facility.

Court officials have been wrestling with whether to release Bendle into outpatient treatment, including exploring an interim step before granting him freedom. Bendle hasn’t been in court for the discussions held several times this year.

Normally patients would be released from a state hospital to a halfway house with intensive supervision for at least 90 days, and later a board-and-care facility.

However, one plan called for him to be sent to another mental hospital in Sylmar as an interim step before his release. But that facility’s medical staff determined Bendle wouldn’t benefit from being in their program because of the “completeness of his recovery,” according to Dark.

On Thursday, Duffy and Dark held two private meetings with the judge.

Later, Dark said the judge will review several reports, including those from Patton State Hospital, the Sylmar facility and Dr. John Schipper, the outgoing director of the California Forensics Conditional Release Program, dubbed CONREP and part of the California Department of State Hospitals.

“It is my understanding every single report on Mr. Bendle is favorable,” Dark said. 

McGregor said he has requested copies of the reports and clinical studies to review prior to the Dec. 4 hearing.

Bendle’s release would come as CONREP switches providers after MHM Services, based in Vienna, Va., won the contract to operate the program for the state.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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