GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - A local judge concluded on Nov. 13 that killer Steven Michael Stagner should be periodically allowed outside the mental institution where he has been housed for the past 10 years.
The request came from doctors at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo (CMHIP). It was supported by the public defender's office, and opposed by the 9th District Attorney's office.
In a decision that included 13 conditions for the supervised outings, District Judge Denise Lynch noted that Stagner has been effectively able to walk off the grounds of the CMHIP since 2006.
There are no fences or gates on the grounds, and he has unsupervised privileges to roam the campus, as it is called, she noted in her decision.
"He will actually have more supervision with off-grounds privileges than he has now," the judge commented.
Stagner, 53, has been confined at the mental institution since June 26, 2002, over a shooting rampage in Rifle on July 4, 2001, that left four people dead and three others wounded. All of his victims were strangers, and all were Latino.
Prior to the killings, Judge Lynch noted, Stagner had a 20-year history of mental illness, including hospitalizations and stays at CMHIP and treatment for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder.
His symptoms included psychotic episodes in which he believed he was the Archangel Michael acting on God's orders, such as the feelings he was reported to be experiencing on the night of the shooting rampage, the judge stated.
He was found not guilty by reason of insanity, but the judge hearing the case, the late T. Peter Craven, ruled that he had committed the crimes as charged, including murder and attempted murder.
The list of conditions outlined by Judge Lynch include prohibitions barring Stagner from coming to Garfield County or to Rifle except for court hearings, from overnight outings, and from being present in areas where there are likely to be large numbers of Hispanic individuals.
He also is not allowed to be anywhere that gives him access to weapons of any kind.