ST. PETER — A Stearns County social worker and staff at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter had differing views about whether Burton Ewing Jr. was ready for a third provisional release from the hospital's transition program, according to testimony Tuesday at the trial to determine if he was mentally ill when he attempted to murder his mother.
Ewing's mother, Marlys Olson, was in St. Peter on May 8, 2012, to attend a quarterly meeting with her son at the hospital. He had told her he was hopeful he would be released again, as he had been twice before a year and four months earlier. So they had planned to celebrate with a picnic and a shopping trip to Mankato. They had the picnic, but Ewing attempted to beat and stab his mother to death at Seven Mile Creek County Park before they made it to Mankato.
Ewing, 49, had been issued a day pass by the hospital for the outing with his mother. It was 14 years, almost to the day, after the May 7, 1998, incident that sent him to the hospital for treatment: He beat his sister to death with a claw hammer while visiting her at her Shoreview home.
That incident alone was one of the key reasons Roger Frie didn't think Ewing should be released into the community again. The Stearns County Human Services employee also said Ewing's two previous trips to the Cummings Care Center in Sauk Rapids showed Ewing wasn't ready for release. Both of those provisional releases, one in December 2010 and one in January 2011, resulted in Ewing being sent back to the security hospital after about two weeks in the supervised facility.
The first release ended voluntarily after Ewing realized his smoking habit was interfering with his medications, Frie said Tuesday while answering questions from Assistant Nicollet County Attorney James Dunn and one of Ewing's two defense attorneys, Stephne Ferrazzano. Ewing was found guilty of attempting to murder Olson during a quick first portion of the trial Monday before Nicollet County District Court Judge Allison Krehbiel. The second portion of the trial is for Ewing's attorneys to show their client was mentally ill, and didn't understand what he was doing, at the time of the incident.