Mar 14, 2014 6:46 PM by April Hansen, KSBY
A young man convicted of killing a Santa Maria man with a hatchet in 2009 may be released from a state mental hospital.
Nicholas Bendle, 25, pleaded guilty to one count of murder for the death of Frederick Holgate, 69.
Holgate was out for a morning walk near the corner of Miller Street and Stowell Road in Santa Maria in August 2009.
The Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office and a defense attorney agreed Bendle was legally insane at the time of the killing.
Bendle has been serving a life sentence at Patton State Hospital.
Deputy Public Defender Patricia Dark says Patton State Hospital filed paperwork with the court that says Bendle has stabilized and is recommending his release. Dark says there was a brief court hearing earlier this week where prosecutors asked for more time to review the records before a final decision is made on Bendle's release.
Bendle has been in treatment for paranoid schizophrenia.
Dark says the hospital's review describes Bendle's behavior as stabilized and says he hasn't had any major problems. Dark says the court could agree with the hospital's recommendation and allow him to be released or there will be a trial where the judge will make a final decision. She says it would be a conditional release, which means he would be under the supervision of the Department of Mental Health.
"There is still a decision to be made. At what point would he be released? Would he go to a halfway house or would he go into a housing supervised by mental health? It's called a conditional release or a supervised released to make sure that the person is integrated back into the community safely," said Deputy Public Defender Patricia Dark.
Dark says they will be back in court May 15 to review the hospital's report.
Dark says Bendle would not be released in Santa Barbara County. He would be supervised somewhere in Southern California.
Patton State Hospital is located in San Bernardino.
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