Stabbing suspect released earlier

The Baltimore Sun

The man charged with stabbing and robbing a woman in Charles Village recently was accused of attacking a shoe store manager four years ago but was released after being found not criminally responsible because of a mental disorder, court records show.

After his arrest in February 2003, George T. Dyson underwent months of psychiatric treatment and evaluations, with one doctor describing him as "dangerous to others." But court records say the man's mental health improved enough for doctors to revise their opinion of his mental state, and they recommended his release from inpatient treatment three years ago.

On May 27, Dyson, 48, was arrested again - and charged in a more serious attack. Police allege the man confronted a woman carrying grocery bags and tried to rob her on the grounds of an elementary school in the 2600 block of St. Paul St. Using two steak knives that had been tied together, he stabbed the woman several times, grabbed her purse and ran from the bloody scene, according to police charging documents.

Two witnesses caught and held the man until police arrested him and charged him with attempted murder.

The victim, Karen Harris, 57, who lives nearby in the Harwood neighborhood, was treated for serious injuries at Johns Hopkins Hospital and was released Wednesday, a hospital spokesman said. She could not be reached for comment.

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state's attorney's office, said it is rare that a person on "conditional release" from a psychiatric institution violates the conditions of the program, such as by committing another crime or failing to comply with rules. She said it happens no more than about 20 times a year.

"In a sense, these are very infrequent, in terms of the overall Circuit Court criminal caseload," Burns said. The city Circuit Court system handles about 10,000 cases a year, she said.

Susan Steinberg, deputy director of community programs and managed care for the state Mental Hygiene Administration, said less than 2 percent of former patients - a dozen or fewer people - are arrested each year for crimes, usually misdemeanors, and their conditions are re-evaluated.

"Our monitoring system does work," Steinberg said. "We take great pride in the fact that the rearrest of people on conditional release is really low. Our goal is, if someone is deteriorating, to get them help."

Dr. Christiane Tellefsen, a forensic psychiatrist affiliated with the University of Maryland Department of Psychiatry, said the recidivism rate for people placed on conditional release in Maryland is "quite low and always has been."

Tellefsen, a former acting superintendent of Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, the state's main hospital for treating mentally ill people accused of violent crimes, said people who are committed into psychiatric care because of a criminal offense often get better supervision and treatment than people who are committed through the civil process.

In 2003, Dyson was accused of robbing a Payless shoe store while wielding a box cutter. He tried to slash the store manager, but the blade was too dull and didn't penetrate her skin, according to charging documents.

The manager alerted a police officer outside the store, who arrested Dyson, the records show.

In a pretrial evaluation Sept. 3, 2003, Dr. Eva D. Sivan of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene wrote that Dyson was "disorganized and irrational in his thought processes.

"He has a long history of mental illness with an equally long history of noncompliance with treatment and medication, followed by aggressive and violent behaviors," Sivan wrote in court papers arguing for continued inpatient treatment for Dyson.

She diagnosed that Dyson suffered from "bipolar disorder, hypomanic episode, with psychotic features," and noted abuse of marijuana and alcohol. He was prescribed olanzapine - an anti-psychotic medication used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

But by April 2004, doctors had re-evaluated him and determined that he would "not be a danger" if he were released from inpatient treatment under several conditions he had to follow, court records show.

Under the terms of those conditions, filed in May 2004 with the court, Dyson was required to live in supervised housing, receive mental health treatment and case management services, take prescribed medications, and submit to periodic blood and drug testing.

He was not allowed to possess any weapons and was required to notify his case manager of any significant developments in his life, such as address changes, new arrests and trips outside the state.

Steinberg said her agency monitors mental health providers that assist people such as Dyson. Baltimore Mental Health Systems Inc. was involved in Dyson's care, according to the court records, but an official at that organization declined to comment and referred questions to Steinberg.

Noting patient confidentiality restrictions, Steinberg said she could not discuss details of his condition and treatment. But she did say that none of the providers involved with Dyson had reported him "noncompliant" with the conditions set for him upon his release in May 2004.

Although police do not have a fixed address for Dyson, Steinberg said he was not homeless. She said she could not release his address.

"We do not allow people [under our programs] to be homeless," Steinberg said. "He was seeing a provider who was following him."

She said the last time Dyson reported an address change was in October. The court record indicates he received inpatient treatment at the Walter P. Carter Center, though it was not clear how long he stayed at that facility or if he moved elsewhere.

A search of public records databases found Dyson had lived at a group home in the 5900 block of Edna Ave. in Northeast Baltimore. That home is now vacant.

About 600 people a year are placed on conditional release and monitored by the Mental Hygiene Administration, Steinberg said.

But she said that in cases such as Dyson's, mental health experts assess a defendant's mental health and make recommendations to the court. A judge decides whether a defendant should remained hospitalized and under guard, or placed under supervision in the community under tight conditions and restrictions.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Lynn K. Stewart, who signed the order for Dyson's conditional release in 2004, could not be reached for comment.

To see a video of the crime scene, go to

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