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Killing raises questions about man’s release from hospital

PHOENIX (AP) — A Phoenix man suspected of decapitating his wife and mutilating himself had spent about 10 years in the state mental hospital for stabbing a relative before he was recently released from custody, court records obtained Tuesday show.

The man, whose identity hasn’t been revealed by police, was approved for release 10 months ago by the Arizona Psychiatric Security Review Board based on a belief that his mental health disease was in remission and that he wasn’t dangerous if he lived in a residential treatment program.

The decision to release the man was questioned by Phoenix police after the killing.

“Is it reasonable for them to be released in the community, what were the terms of release, and was that reasonable?” Phoenix police spokesman Trent Crump said. “That is something we are looking into.”

Investigators say the man had killed his wife, 49-year-old Trina Heisch, and inflicted injuries on himself, including a severed left forearm and a missing eye.

The violence was discovered Saturday when a neighbor went to check on Heisch and noticed her husband’s arm was cut off.

No motive for the killing has surfaced. The suspect is expected to be arrested once he is released from a hospital.

Asked if police could have done more to confront Heisch’s husband before the attack, Crump said the police department is satisfied with its response to earlier calls involving problems at the apartment.

“We can’t tell neighbors how to feel but at a minimum it is our job to respond to calls for service,” Crump said. “No excuses.”

Heisch and her husband were each sentenced to 10 years in a state mental hospital in separate stabbings of family members, the court records state.

A judge found Heisch to be “guilty, except insane” on charges of attempted second-degree murder in the stabbing of her 15-year-old son while he was sleeping in January 2000. The verdict spared Heisch, whose son didn’t face life-threatening injuries, a prison sentence.

Her husband also was found to be “guilty, except insane” on charges of attempted second-degree murder in the stabbing of another family member in March 2003.

Police were called to the couple’s Phoenix apartment five times in recent months.

During a June 7 call, Heisch’s husband said he was on drugs and was going to burn people, prompting a visit from police and a crisis intervention team that focuses on people with mental health issues. It’s unclear what sort of services he was given.

Days earlier, the husband claimed Heisch had stabbed him, though officers learned that wasn’t true. Two weeks later, Heisch was booked on suspicion of aggravated assault but no charges were filed.

The psychiatric board “did everything that was permitted by law to ensure the safety of the community, but I can’t say anything more specific than that,” said Dr. Carol Olson, chairwoman of the board, citing health privacy laws.

Two months after the board cleared Heisch’s husband for release from the state hospital, it voted to order the county prosecutor’s office to start proceedings to civilly commit him.

“That process was not ordered and did not take place,” said Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Cobb said he doesn’t know why the county attorney’s office was never asked to seek a civil commitment.

A neighbor of the couple told The Arizona Republic that she called 911 several times within three months to complain about problems with the couple. She said she felt discouraged from calling again based on the comments of a dispatcher about taxpayer dollars.

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Information from: KTVK-TV, http://www.azfamily.com/

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