Suspect in Atascadero State Hospital killing has history of assault and delusions

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comMay 29, 2014 

Adam Paul Cary, 34, a patient at Atascadero State Hospital, was arrested Wednesday, May 28, 2014, on suspicion of murder. Original story »

The patient suspected of killing another patient at Atascadero State Hospital on Wednesday has a documented history of assault and delusional behavior.

Adam Paul Cary, 34, was taken into custody on suspicion of murder and booked into County Jail on Wednesday.

The alleged incident is the first time since 2008 that one patient killed another patient at the state hospital, a California Department of State Hospitals official said.

Cary first made his way into the correctional system on April 28, 2003, when he was charged with attempted rape in Riverside County, court records show.

He was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial in January 2004, spending the next seven years in and out of state mental hospitals as psychiatric experts attempted to restore his competency. Occasionally, they’d say he was competent, and he’d be returned to jail to face the charges.

But then he’d be declared incompetent again and returned to state hospitals. In 2010, he was declared competent for the final time and, in 2011, pleaded guilty to committing assault with intent to rape. He was sentenced to eight years with credit for time served.

Since he’d been incarcerated since 2003, he had a remaining balance of zero and was released back to the public in 2011.

In 2012, Cary was sent back to prison to carry out a two-year sentence for throwing a hammer at his brother and vandalizing his mother’s car during a family dispute in San Bernardino County.

He arrived at Atascadero State Hospital on March 5, 2014, for delusional behavior he presented while in prison, according to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s office.

He acted out against himself and others, expressed beliefs regarding religious and sexual delusions and attempted suicide several times, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Jerret Gran.

The District Attorney’s Office was in the process of certifying Cary as a mentally disordered offender when the slaying occurred Wednesday. Such offenders serve their parole at ASH or remain institutionalized after their parole has expired because they're deemed too dangerous to re-enter society.

“Basically, they are people who have a history of bizarre and inappropriate behavior,” Gran said.

Now, Cary is accused of killing another patient, whose name hasn’t been disclosed, in an incident that authorities say occurred in that patient’s dorm room at about 2:18 p.m. Wednesday.

Hospital staff members responded to a call for help and found a critically injured patient in the room, according to a statement from the state Department of State Hospitals. A cause of death has not been disclosed, but two ASH employees say he was strangled.

Cary was booked into County Jail late Wednesday on suspicion of murder and remained there Thursday.

A psychiatric technician hurt in the attack sustained possible back and wrist injuries.

Meanwhile, another patient that was possibly involved remains in isolation.

“His role in the incident, if any, remains under investigation,” the Department of State Hospitals statement said. There is no evidence to suggest the incident is gang-related, officials said.

As news of the alleged murder swept through the state facility Thursday, authorities continued to investigate the crime inside the high-security facility and lifted a lockdown at 3:30 p.m.

“Everybody is talking about it. They are surprised,” one employee said of the slaying. “The hitting here is day in and day out. But a killing — that’s (unexpected).”

The employee asked that their name not be published for fear of retribution.

Violence is not uncommon at ASH. The facility is among five state hospitals noted among safety advocates in recent years for the regular acts of violence by patients on staff members.

The last time a patient killed a patient at ASH was in 2008 when Richard McKee, 44, strangled Lawrence Rael, 37, and beat another patient, Donald Chester Jr., with a cane. Rael's body was found in his room.

A representative from the employee union that represents psychiatric technicians said the slaying is yet another example of why safety is paramount among the state’s mental hospitals.

“Certainly with the murder of a patient — safety has to be priority No. 1 at Atascadero (State Hospital) and all our state hospitals and that’s why we’re working for safety. Not just for staff but for patients, too,” spokeswoman Brady Oppenheimer said.

Staff writer Patrick S. Pemberton contributed to this report. Stay connected with Tonya Strickland by following @tstrickland on Twitter or by visiting Facebook.com/SLOTribuneNorthCounty.

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