A Santa Maria man who was found to be legally insane when he killed a stranger with a hatchet 11 years ago is being released into the community after a judge ruled that he is no longer a danger to others.
On August 1, 2009, 69-year-old Frederick Holgate was out for an early morning walk when Nicholas Bendle, who was 20 at the time, attacked him.
A court found that Bendle had suffered a psychotic break due to the rapid onset of previously undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenia.
He was sentenced to a state mental hospital and after completing several mental health transition programs, transitioned to independent living in 2018 under the supervision of the Solano County Conditional Release Program (CONREP).
According to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office, CONREP representatives have consistently described Bendle as a "model patient, with great insight into his mental disorder and relapse prevention."
In November 2019, Bendle filed an Application for Restoration to Sanity, seeking release from CONREP.
That petition was opposed by the Santa Barbara County Disrict Attorney's Office as well as CONREP supervision because of a lack of an aftercare plan and what the district attorney's office described as "recent life altering events in Mr. Bendle's life."
A trial on Bendle's petition was held this month and after hearing from his psychiatrist, CONREP clinicians, and the Solano County CONREP Community Program Director, the judge ruled there was no significant evidence that Bendle is a danger to the health and safety of others and granted his petition.