Janesville55.4°

Standoff suspect ordered to enter mental health hospital

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Kayla Bunge
July 29, 2010
— Richard Sallmann probably would rather spend his years on his small farm, tending his garden, caring for his bees and living a quiet, simple life.

But the Richmond Township man, who pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to pointing a gun at his children and shooting at police during a daylong standoff in late December, will spend at least some time in a mental health institute.


Judge John Race on Wednesday ordered Sallmann be committed to a mental health hospital for up to 37˝ years, the maximum time for which the charges of first-degree recklessly endangering safety call. Race noted Sallmann is eligible to petition for conditional release from the institution after six months.


“This is not someone sitting alone in his bedroom having a psychotic episode. This is a very significant community-disturbing episode,” he said.


Sallmann is accused of pointing a gun at his children, threatening to shoot them and causing a daylong standoff with authorities at his home on Turtle Lake Road on Dec. 29. He also is accused of firing several shots at law enforcement during the standoff.


Walworth County District Phil Koss argued Sallmann must be hospitalized because he long has suffered from mental illness, including bipolar disorder, and usually did not take medication prescribed to control the illness.


But defense attorney Christopher Kuehn argued Sallmann could be rehabilitated with supervision at home, where his oldest son and oldest sister have volunteered to live with and care for him.


“There are stresses on the farm. But there’s a certain therapeutic value … in him working with the bees,” he said. “It’s what he loves. It’s his soul.”


Mary Sallmann advocated that her husband be institutionalized because she feared he could hurt her or their children again. She said his manic or psychotic behavior improved with medication but said he usually refused to take it.


“He doesn’t think anything is wrong with him,” she said. “He thinks his mental illness is not really a mental illness. He thinks it’s a special gift of spiritual clarity … and he feels that anyone trying to thwart his spiritual experience is trying to persecute the person that he is … He would rather not take his meds because then it proves that the world is basically against him and his spiritual insights are muddied …”


Benjamin Sallmann asked that his father be allowed to return to his farm because he would have a network of family and friends who could support him. He said his father understands that not taking his medication and not following the conditions of his release into the community would land him back in the hospital or back in jail.


“I don’t think I need to control him,” he said. “He’s fine. He’s got some eccentric thoughts … and distrust toward government and so-called experts. I don’t think that’s criminal or unusual. I think he has some suspicions, but I don’t think it goes so far as to disobey. … He’s not going to do it again.”


Sallmann, who had an opportunity to speak before the judge issued his decision, apologized for his actions.


“I’m sorry for everything that happened …” he said. “I had a total nervous breakdown, just a total nervous breakdown.”



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