The Free Press, Mankato, MN


October 6, 2013

More resources needed to help mentally ill


And he did.

That's what it took for Burt Jr. to get help from the system. After he murdered his sister Mary Beth, Burt Jr. was found not guilty by reason of mental illness. He was admitted to the Minnesota Security Hospital at the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center, spending about 10 years there. In January 2008 he began two years of preparation for discharge at a transition facility.

His father, Burt Sr., argued against his son's release, saying he was concerned his son could not handle the normal stresses of life and would escape with plans to harm or kill someone else in the family.

Even so, in December 2010 Burt Jr. was provisionally released to a mental health facility near St. Cloud. He returned to Transition Services a short time later because he was showing signs of losing control. He was released again to the same facility a month later, then returned to St. Peter again because his behavior worsened. “It was determined that (Burt Jr.'s) health could no longer be 'adequately managed' in a community setting,” the DHS report said.

Treatment Center staff approved day passes for Burt Jr. He was released from the campus 91 times between November 2011 and May 7, 2012, including for visits with his mother. In preparation for his last visit with her, he packed a duffel bag containing several days' worth of clothing and food, and documents about his sister's murder. Despite the visit date being one day from the 14th anniversary of his sister's murder, staff never checked his bag. His mother picked him up and when they got to Seven Mile Creek County Park, he proceeded to try to kill her, stabbing her multiple times.

The Treatment Center has been under intense scrutiny for a long list of problems. That scrutiny needs to continue and emphasis placed on accountability. A change in laws also should be considered to address involuntary commitments and sharing of mental health data with law enforcement.

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