Judge says schizophrenic accused of murdering parents must stay committed
When the parents of Andrew Sawyer Weller woke up on the morning of April 25, 1986, they couldn’t have known their lives would be ended with a shotgun as they sat eating breakfast.
“Well, they didn’t have salsa,” Weller’s attorney James Makin quipped.
Now, some 26 years after he was found not guilty of the murders by reason of insanity, Weller’s case was back in a Jefferson County courtroom Monday, June 2, as a yearly review of the clinically insane man’s case was brought before Judge John Stevens’ Criminal District Court.
According to Weller’s psychiatrists, “Mr. Weller is likely to cause serious harm to others and is suffering severe or abnormal mental, emotional or physical distress or experiencing substantial mental or physical deterioration of his ability to function independently and is unable to make rational and informed decisions as to whether or not to submit to treatment.”
A close look at Weller’s original file at the county courthouse shows that although Weller claims to not recall shooting both his parents in the head with a shotgun, evidence found at the scene showed that Weller was the only person in the home with his parents at the time.
A probable cause affidavit written by Beaumont police in 1986 said at least one witness heard two shots ring out inside the home about 8:10 a.m. Apparently concerned, the witness told police he sat in front of the home until about 8:20 a.m. and told police no one else left or entered. Ten minutes later, Weller would call 911 and advise police he had just awakened to find his parents dead.
“Evidence at the scene of the offense indicates that someone had cleansed themselves in a bathroom in the home. There are indications in the bathroom of blood and human tissue,” the affidavit said. “There is no sign of forced entry at the residence.”
A crime scene sketch obtained from Weller’s file shows both bodies lying next to the dining room table, evidence that Weller’s parents likely never got out of their seats before being shot at close range with a shotgun.
Monday, Weller attended his hearing by phone from the Rusk State Hospital for the mentally insane. At issue was whether Weller should be released to an outpatient treatment facility after more than four years of having refused his medication.
“There’s been no sign of mental illness or psychosis for a very long time,” Weller said.
Weller’s defense attorney, James Makin, pointed out to Stevens court that not only has Weller not showed any violent tendencies since coming to Rusk, Weller has not taken any psychotropic medication for his paranoid schizophrenia for at least four years as Weller believes he is no longer mentally ill.
“No verbal or physical aggression since admission into the residential program. … He’s never had any problems since he stopped taking the medicine,” Makin said. “Everyone is all worried that he can’t be released because he’s not taking medicine. He’s doing wonderful while not taking the medicine. He’s kind of in a Catch 22 because he can’t be released unless he says he’s ill, and by him saying he’s not mentally ill, the doctors want to keep him.”
It seems Weller has acquiesced to an administration of psychotropic medication in the past, but physicians eventually took Weller off the medications at least twice due to allergic reactions that put Weller in a “pre-leukemic state” in which his white blood cell count dropped dangerously low. Had Weller not been allergic to his psychotropic medications, Judge Stevens could have released Weller some four years ago on a less-restrictive outpatient treatment basis.
“I could get my own apartment. I could get my own groceries. I could cook my food, wash my clothes,” Weller said Monday by phone. “I could do whatever I need to do by myself. I would not need the state’s assistance to do it.”
Weller has gone so far as to secure Social Security benefits for himself, benefits that would be ready upon his release. Makin also pointed to the fact that Weller has worked diligently at the Rusk hospital at a job he attends each day and has earned the respect of his coworkers and employer, the latter of which signed an affidavit lauding Weller’s work ethic.
“It says that Mr. Weller is a very diligent, hard working individual who is always on time, who handles his job responsibilities very responsibly, very well,” Makin said. “He interacts with all, not only the other coworkers, but with the citizens he comes into contact with. There have been no mental illness signs within the last year.”
Although his doctors may not agree, Weller said the court should consider the opinion of his employer.
“He sees me on a daily basis. Whereas the person you have statements from (the doctors) sees me maybe 10 minutes once every month and a half or so. In a year’s time, he talks to me maybe an hour. I see these people an hour every day.”
But Judge Stevens said his court would not discount the opinion of two licensed psychiatrists.
“I’ll just tell you the rub here; the problem that this court has is experts in this regard are stating that you need treatment. They are prescribing treatment and you are in utter defiance of that treatment,” Stevens said. “The doctors state you refuse psychotropic medications.”
After suffering adverse reactions to his medications, it seems Weller is convinced the medications aren’t needed.
“I’m not interested in taking something that I don’t need and that my body doesn’t require. If I was mentally ill as they say, I could not function. I could not go to work. I could do not do those things that I can do on my own,” Weller said. “If there’s been some kind of overt act that would make them think I need that stuff, I wish they would speak up now.”
Prosecutor Bruce Smith said the fact that Weller believes he is not mentally ill is proof enough that he is.
“As stated on many occasions previously, for Mr. Weller to be released, he has to acknowledge the fact that he continues to be mentally ill and is in need of treatment for that,” Smith said. “And his continued refusal to accept that fact proves the state’s point of view.”
Moments later, Stevens ruled that Weller must stay at the Rusk State Hospital until his doctors find him ready to enter the outside world on an outpatient basis.
“The court is going to give the deference to the treating physicians who are licensed experts in this regard,” Stevens said.