Dalton to be released

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:12 PM

Rodney Dalton is getting out of the mental hospital.

Visiting Common Pleas Judge Judith Cross ruled this week the former Wakeman resident doesn't represent a "substantial risk of harm to himself or others." She said Dalton has been taking his medication, is currently sober and doesn't have recent homicidal, suicidal or violent behavior.

"Looking at the defendant as he is today, under medication, he does not represent a substantial risk," she wrote.

Dalton has been at Northcoast Behavioral Health Center since his December 2004 trial on charges of attempted murder, felonious assault and disrupting public service. In early 2005, Cross found Dalton not guilty by reason of insanity of brutally attacking his then live-in girlfriend with a knife and stabbing two dogs during a Jan. 17, 2004 "manic-psychotic break." One of the animals died.

Cross recommended Dalton stay in Toledo, instead of Huron and Erie counties, to take advantage of public transportation. He doesn't have a driver's license.

Defense attorney Laura Perkovic said having Dalton in Toledo means there are "more resources for him," so he can comply with the terms of his conditional release. Dalton must maintain his appointments with his psychiatrist and forensic monitor. He also is required to obey all laws, take his medication and is prohibited from using drugs or alcohol.

Erna Gerki, Dalton's mother, is pleased her son is being released from the hospital.

"It would be nice if he were closer," the Vermilion woman said.

Gerki said her son has been a big help whenever he's been home by staining floors, cutting the grass and taking limbs of various trees. Dalton has been at his mother's rural Erie County home about six times in the last year.

She recalled "a wonderful time" when her son played his guitar while she played the accordion.

"He's never, ever been a violent person. We're shocked," Gerki said.

"He's never, ever been a risk. ... He doesn't have a bad bone in his body. Whatever he did wasn't his fault," she said.

Cross said Dalton "appears to take care of his physical needs" and can function as an adult. While he needs medication and "some supervision," she wrote, Dalton "is not at this time a mentally ill person subject to hospitalization."

"My opinion is the same as the judge's," Perkovic said. "There is always a risk, but the court says he's not a substantial risk."

Perkovic said it's illegal "to keep him hospitalized indefinitely," pointing out the purpose of mental hospitals is to treat an acute problem. She stressed that hospitals shouldn't be used as punishment.

The attorney said her client was "untreated" when he committed the original offense, but has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and stable for about the last three years.

"He has to maintain a constant lithium level," Perkovic said.

The state contends Dalton is a violent person, but she said the incidents were isolated when he was untreated and undiagnosed.

Northcoast treating psychiatrist Dr. Robert Karp, while testifying last month, said he didn't believe Dalton would benefit from further hospitalization. He described Dalton as "manic with psychotic symptoms," which is "now in complete remission."

Dr. James Karpawich, an independent clinical psychiatrist, testified March 25 for the state. He diagnosed Dalton with having anti-social personality disorder. Karpawich said the defendant is "basically a psychopath" and expressed concerns about his violent tendencies toward women.

Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler, last month in his closing statement, said it's difficult to believe Dalton's only "problem" is having bipolar disorder, which nobody had diagnosed before early 2004. He told the court the community shouldn't have to "put up with" Dalton dealing with unresolved mental issues while he is out of the mental hospital.

Perkovic said Thursday that Leffler failed to prove her client is mentally ill and needs to be hospitalized.

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