St. Johnsbury attack suspect released without court approval
ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. -
It was a brutal attack inside a St. Johnsbury apartment house that nearly killed furnace repairman Michael Kuligoski of Danville.
Evan Rapoza of St. Johnsbury allegedly beat the 52-year-old father of two with a wrench and then nearly drowned him two years ago during a service call. Rapoza, 23, was originally charged with attempted murder. But doctors determined that Rapoza was insane at the time of the attack and charges were dropped. Instead, he was committed to a mental health facility.
Lawyers are now asking the judge to release Rapoza from the Brattleboro Retreat.
"Significantly, it's been almost two years to the date. Mr. Rapoza has not demonstrated any actions of violence or threats of violence, verbal or otherwise," Caledonia County Assistant State's Attorney Ben Luna said.
But it turns out the Department of Mental Health released Rapoza from the Brattleboro Retreat a month ago, even though it had to be approved by a judge.
"So, it could consider whether a transfer or discharge was consistent with public safety," Vt. Superior Court Judge Mary Teachout said.
Rapoza has been staying at the Meadowview Recovery Residence, a secure mental health treatment center in Brattleboro. The state admits the mistake and says that's because this case is different. A family court judge's approval is good enough in most cases, but the mental health department admits it overlooked the fact a criminal court judge was supposed to rule on Rapoza's release, as well.
"We need to make sure we take every step and we will be reviewing the detail on what happened in this situation," Vt. Mental Health Commissioner Mary Moulton said.
Judge Teachout considered returning Rapoza to the Brattleboro Retreat Friday, but decided against it. She did say Rapoza must not leave the treatment center, even though the conditions of his transfer allowed for it.
"With a person with mental conditions the court is aware transitions can be problematic and difficult and can trigger things and can be difficulty with treatment," the judge said.
Judge Teachout plans to hold a hearing on Rapoza's release in the coming weeks and told the state to make sure a bed is ready for Rapoza at the Brattleboro Retreat because Friday's ruling should not indicate where Rapoza will be placed.
Kuligoski is still recovering and is limited in his day-to-day activities. Even two years after the attack he attends physical therapy three times a week.
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