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“People can and do recover from mental illnesses, including very serious illnesses that can lead to violence. Even when someone has successfully been treated, we take great care to address risks to others in the community,” she said. “Patients who have been provisionally discharged are subject to multiple conditions and close monitoring, and DHS can and does revoke provisional discharge for violations.”
Happ’s discharge petition was filed in May by Dr. Steven Pratt, the forensic medical director at the state security hospital. A special review board approved it after hearing testimony and reviewing 41 documents, including a letter from Stuewe pleading for Happ’s continued commitment.
The recommendation report 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.
Even with its concerns, Carver County Human Services supported Happ’s petition “in principle.” The county attorney’s office also acknowledged that it was encouraged by his excellent work in treatment. Yet an evaluation in the report also said Happ is subject to olfactory hallucinations and sporadic unwanted, disturbing images related to his past homicidal behavior.
‘Kind and loving’ parents
Dave Happ saw those behaviors firsthand. On that night in 1999, Richard shoved him down the stairs and asked him “if he was ready to die” before fatally stabbing their parents, Richard H. and Angela Happ, ages 62 and 59, when they rushed to Dave’s aid.
When a deputy arrived, summoned by Dave’s frantic cordless-phone call once he had fled the house, 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.
After being charged in the crimes, Richard Happ was deemed mentally ill and dangerous, and was committed indefinitely to St. Peter.
The Happs had long recognized that Richard was deeply troubled; they had sought help for him at three hospitals.
Happ had a bench trial, which meant his case wasn’t heard by a jury. He was ruled mentally ill at the time he killed his parents and acquitted of murder and attempted-murder charges.
Dave Happ said he has never contacted his brother at the hospital because he doesn’t trust him and doesn’t want a relationship if he is released. He said he believed he is being victimized all over again and wants the people pushing for Happ’s discharge to be held accountable.
“We are dealing with a volatile personality,” he said. “I have to deal with it for now. If he gets out and I’m uncomfortable, I might have to move out of the area.”
He described his parents as “the most kind and loving people I knew.”
“It was a massively devastating event that defined my life,” Dave said. “It angers me that they are gone and he’s still around.”
David Chanen • 612-673-4465