Judge: Driver not guilty by reason of insanity

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:58 AM

A judge found a Willard woman not guilty by reason of insanity in an April 24 high-speed chase after a short bench trial Tuesday.

Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway's ruling means Arlena M. Hicks, 38, "was not aware of what she was doing" when she hit the same police cruiser twice and collided with three vehicles, court administrator Linda Stower said. The state now will have to make an appointment for Hicks to be re-evaluated at Northcoast Behavioral Center in Toledo.

Once that is done, Stower explained, the court can schedule a hearing about her subsequent treatment.

"It takes about 30 days to do that and get a report (from Northcoast)," she added.

Hicks, of 1837 S. Thomas Road, was evaluated last at Northcoast on July 30. Authorities, at the time, found she "was not sane at the time of the incident," Stower said, but capable of standing trial and able to assist in her own defense.

After the high-speed chase, authorities took Hicks to the Huron County Jail. One day later, corrections officers decided to take her to Northcoast due to potential mental issues after she met with a mental health counselor.

Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler said Hicks has been in jail or at Northcoast since the chase. She has been diagnosed with a depressed type of schizoaffective disorder.

Leffler said there is "no question" she is mentally ill, but the difficulty is determining if she's mentally ill enough to know right from wrong.

"She might have been there," he said. "She seems to have psychotic problems."

Leffler added there was no apparent motivation for Hicks' actions when she ran several people off the road. Floyd Hicks has said his wife acted out of a depressed memory involving alleged child abuse and "wasn't in her right state of mind."

Huron County Assistant Public Defender David Longo said his client had gotten better by July 30, but described her now as "only marginally competent." He said there would have been a "serious problem" if Arlena Hicks had testified in her trial. Longo noted she would have a hard time defending herself.

"There's no question she's better ... but she's not in a state of normal mental health," he said.

In June, a grand jury indicted Hicks on felonious assault and two counts of failure to comply with the order or signal of a police officer. She was accused of using a green Ford Explorer as a deadly weapon during the pursuit that reached speeds as fast as 80 mph.

Before the chase, a 9-1-1 caller reported Hicks hit several vehicles on Ohio 61. A driver hit north of Peru Hollow Road spun out and went into a ditch. Police began the pursuit near a Cleveland Road business and ended on Ohio 303 near Wakeman, about two miles west of the Lorain County line.

Two state troopers, Norwalk Police Capt. Eric Hipp and two of the three victims testified for the state. A Northcoast doctor took the stand for the defense.

Longo said he isn't surprised Conway ruled Hicks was not guilty by reason of insanity because attorneys had gotten previous reports from Northcoast. He said Hicks was transferred from the jail to Northcoast originally because she wasn't talking, eating or taking care of her physical needs.

"While she's better now, she still needs more help," Longo said. "We're out of the realm of crime and punishment and into the realm of treatment."

Leffler said Hicks could remain in a mental hospital for up to 13 years. That's the maximum prison sentence she could have faced if she had been convicted.

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