Evan Rapoza says the voices inside his head told him to hurt people. In February, the 21-year-old allegedly beat, strangled and nearly drowned 50-year-old Michael Kuligoski, a furnace repairman working at his St. Johnsbury home.
Less than a year later, the department of mental health told a judge that Rapoza can safely transition to an outpatient facility.
"The department's position is that Mr. Rapoza is ready for discharge from the hospital. He will remain in the care and custody of the commissioner of mental health," Vt. Assistant Attorney General Kristin Chandler said.
Rapoza was ordered to the Vermont State Hospital after February's attack. Psychiatrists there diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenic and began treating him with a series antipsychotic medications. Doctors say this regime is an effective way to control Rapoza's homicidal and suicidal compulsions.
"I would not advocate that Evan remain in a locked facility," Dr. Cory Nohl said.
Nohl now treats Rapoza at the Brattleboro Retreat where he's been housed since the state hospital closed after Tropical Storm Irene. He says if Rapoza stays on his meds, keeps all treatment appointments and avoids illicit drugs and alcohol, transferring to Chrysalis House-- an outpatient treatment facility in Waterbury-- would be in his best interest and could be done safely.
"This is an opportunity for Evan to build on the progress he's made in terms of stabilization with medications and move on to a modality of treatment that isn't available in the in-patient setting," Nohl said.
But prosecutors disagree with the early discharge, saying the request comes too soon.
"The state wants to see a substantial period of time pass to ensure that all of his prescriptions are successful," said Benjamin Luna, the deputy state's attorney in Caledonia County.
Prosecutors believe Rapoza remains a danger to himself and the public, arguing the severity of the crime combined with his complicated mental health history warrants more time in a secure facility.
"We want Mr. Rapoza to succeed in his hospitalization and his recovery, but more importantly, we want the public protected and we want the public safety ensured from Mr. Rapoza," Luna said.
State prosecutors say Michael Kuligoski remains hospitalized from the attack. He recently underwent brain surgery and is expected to be permanently disabled.
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