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Man who stabbed friend to death to remain hospitalized

State Attorney's Office successful in getting release from mental health facility denied

June 4, 2015
By MEGHAN McCOY (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Mario Lopez, who stabbed a friend to death when he was 15, will remain committed to the Department of Children and Families for involuntary hospitalization after Honorable Lee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Fuller's ruling last month, which was ordered June 1.

"The judge just ruled on May 19 that he continues to meet the criteria for commitment. What it means is he will remain there until the state hospital (says he) no longer meets the criteria," Assistant State Attorney Anthony Kunasek said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "I think, based on the doctor's testimony, he is still a danger to himself and others. That is the state's primary concern releasing an individual to an unsecure facility where he could walk out of the facility and potentially injure someone else or harm himself."

According to the court's findings report, Dr. Frederick Schaerf said based on his evaluations of Lopez, he is "still suffering from the negative effects of his mental illness, and because of that illness, his personality disorder, and lack of insight, he is manifestly dangerous to himself and others."

The report states that Lopez was involved in an altercation that included him yelling at another resident and pushing that resident away, in the dorm in September 2014 at the Florida State Hospital. The following month, he was yelling and cussing at staff members when asked to go to bed. Also in October 2014, the report stated he stopped participating in classes. Another altercation took place in November 2014 with another dorm resident. He also has refused treatment.

The report stated that on Feb. 24, 2015 Lopez was "irritable, agitated and angry" when Schaerf visited him in the Lee County jail.

An evaluation done by Dr. Douglas Shandle Feb. 25, 2015, stated that Lopez did not have any recollection of any outbursts, which were all a part of his records. One of those outbursts consisted of Lopez "breaking out a nursing station window with his fist at the Florida State Hospital."

This past December the annual report from the Florida State Hospital recommended Lopez to be conditionally released.

"This was our area's most brutal and vicious murder in decades," Kunasek said. "It is concerning and frightening to have the possibility of an individual that committed such a horrific crime that is suffering from a major mental illness out."

In 2002, Kunasek said, two 15-year-old best friends, Joey Martin and Lopez, were at one of their houses and the mom was home. He said the mother went to take a shower and heard some screaming. The screaming led her to seeing Lopez straddling her son with a knife in hand.

"The police got there within minutes," Kunasek said, adding that Lopez was still there.

Lopez was apprehended and Martin was pronounced dead at the scene.

The crime scene showed foot prints going into the kitchen as the knives broke as Martin was stabbed an estimated 120 times.

Kunasek said when Lopez was apprehended he gave a statement to the police that indicated Martin got him mad and he "just needed to kill him."

Lopez was indicted with first degree murder and an insanity defense was presented.

"During the evaluations he started to suggest he was hearing voices . . . thought Joey was the devil," Kunasek said.

The state appointed a doctor and all three doctors involved in the case said Lopez met the legal definition of insanity. Kunasek said if the state feels there is sufficient evidence that the jury could rely on to define he is not insane, they could still move forward with the case.

"We tried the case three times," he said. "We received three hung juries."

Based on the mistrials, the state attorney decided to present the case before a judge and not a jury.

"We did that and the judge found him not guilty by reason of insanity. He met the criteria for involuntary commitment into the state hospital system," Kunasek said. "He has been committed since 2008."

Every year, the state hospital sends an annual report on how Lopez is doing, stating whether he continues to meet the criteria for being committed. The criteria for Lopez to remain involuntary committed depends on if he is manifestly dangerous to himself and others. That ruling allows the state to request a hearing and have more doctors appointed.

Over the years, Kunasek said they have stayed in touch with the victim's family and the mother was in the courtroom during the May 19 hearing. He said although it is never going to end for the victim's family, the judge's decision will provide them with a sense of relief.

 
 
 

 

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