Ruling on release of killer from St. Peter hospital delayed until late summer

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 28, 2014 - 8:03 PM

Richard Happ’s relatives argued against a recommendation for his provisional release from state hospital.

The process of appeal for the provisional release of a Carver County man who killed his parents in 1999 has been set back until late summer.

Richard A. Happ, now 45, was found to be mentally unstable and dangerous and committed to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter after he fatally stabbed his parents in the kitchen of their Waconia home.

On Friday, a three-judge panel from Dakota County heard pleas from Happ family members and the Carver County attorney’s office not to release him to a state-run facility in West St. Paul. Their arguments were put on hold until Aug. 22 because an independent court-appointed evaluator has asked that two more conditions be added to the recommendation for Happ’s discharge.

That recommendation came from the state Department of Human Services, which said in a report that Happ has gained insight into his mental illness and is considered at low risk to reoffend. Once the state’s report is amended with the new recommendations, the release request will be considered anew.

The recommendation noted Happ’s diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia and alcohol and drug addiction but said he has been free of aggressive behavior since he was admitted to the security hospital. He also has received passes to go into St. Peter and stay overnight with a friend, the report said.

At Friday’s hearing, Richard Happ listened quietly with downcast eyes as his younger brother, David Happ, and his first cousin, Dean Stuewe, both still Carver County residents, said they fear for their lives if Richard is released. He avoided any eye contact with them.

David Happ described to the judges’ panel what happened just before midnight on March 24, 1999, when Richard shoved him down the stairs before fatally stabbing their parents, Richard H. and Angela Happ, ages 62 and 59, when they rushed to his aid. David Happ was 27 at the time, and Richard was 30.

When a deputy arrived, summoned by Dave’s frantic cordless-phone call, Richard lunged at the officer with the knife, then broke the locked squad car window and drove off in the car. Officers chased him about 12 miles, arresting him in the parking lot of a Lake Minnetonka restaurant.

The Happs had long recognized that Richard was deeply troubled and had sought help for him.

“There’s not one day that has gone by where I haven’t thought about it,” David Happ said. “I can’t describe the feeling of helplessness I had on that night.”

During a break in the hearing, he said that it was very difficult to have to see his brother and that he fears greatly that the judges eventually will rule in favor of his release.

Stuewe, who has visited Richard in prison, said he has observed no change in his demeanor over the years since 1999.

Discharges of people indefinitely committed to the security hospital for being mentally ill and dangerous take place far more frequently than for those committed to the state’s sexual offender program.

 

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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