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Turman to be set free

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — A Dugspur woman found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2006 beating death of her mother is ready and able to rejoin the community under an outpatient treatment plan, a Carroll Circuit Court judge ruled on April 9.

Doctors diagnosed Rene Loving Turman as bipolar with psychotic features and found that she did not understand the nature of her actions at the time of the February 2006 incident that left 79-year-old Susan Sprinkle Clark dead.

Turman told a police dispatcher at the time that she thought her mother was a demon.

Now, Turman's doctors at the Southwest Virginia Mental Health Institute have seen so much progress in her treatment that they petitioned the state and Carroll Circuit Court Judge Brett Geisler for approval of a conditional release plan for Turman.

In court last Thursday for a review of the case, Dr. James Moon told the court that Turman is an ideal candidate for the carefully crafted plan for outpatient care in the community, in response to questions from Turman's attorney, Jay Tompkins.

Turman has been in the process of becoming acclimated back into the community as a part of her treatment recently, Moon explained. She had both escorted and unescorted visits home without any problems.

She had the opportunity to be back at her home with her husband; visit with representatives of the Mount Rogers Community Services Board, which will participate in her outpatient care; and attend community events.

A big event, which passed a couple of months ago, was the anniversary of her mother's death, Moon noted. Her caregivers provided Turman with tips about how to cope with reminders of that incident, and she handled herself with flying colors.

Her caregivers at the mental health institute have developed the conditional release plan and it has approved by a review panel with the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services in Richmond, Moon said.

After a two-hour, in-depth interview with Turman, Moon said he is "convinced that Rene no longer needs inpatient treatment" and that she'll do fine under outpatient care as long as she sticks to the conditional release plan.

"We believe Rene will comply with that plan," he added.

Doctors have no reason to believe that she will be a threat to herself or others in the community as long as she does that.

Commonwealth's Attorney Greg Goad sought to confirm that all parties involved in the outpatient treatment plan approved of it, because an earlier request for a conditional release for Turman met with objections from the Community Services Board.

Yes, Moon answered — all parties are in agreement with the treatment plan.

Geisler asked if Moon felt comfortable that Turman would comply with all aspects of the treatment plan and that she would pose no threat if she were released from the hospital.

"I feel very comfortable with that," Moon replied. "I would be honored to have Ms. Turman as my next door neighbor."

If she follows the plan, there will be no problems. Moon said she has so far.

"She followed everything that was recommended to the letter and beyond," he added, calling her approach to her mental health now "exemplary."

Turman now has good interaction with the Community Services Board, as well.

The conditional release plan remains a rigorous one, with lots of structured care and lots of contact with case workers, he said.

"She's going to be followed very intensively for the first year of the community release plan."

That involves 40 hours a week of structured activity, regular doctor's visits, contact with the community services board on an "almost constant basis" and a limit of getting prescriptions for medications only from her psychiatrist, Moon said. This is so she won't get any medications that will be counterproductive to her treatment from different doctors.

(Testimony in an earlier hearing revealed that Turman was getting different prescriptions from different doctors, which caused problems.)

Turman testified on the stand that she had read the treatment plan and she is prepared to comply with all of it.

"I've got quite a lot of appointments lined up and I'm going to make every one," she promised.

Given the recommendation of her doctor, and the care Turman needs being available to her in the community, Geisler granted the request to implement the conditional release plan.

The plan can be revoked if Turman does not comply, but Geisler noted the progress she has made, saying he hasn't seen anyone else do as well as Turman during treatment.

While she's had significant support from family and friends and care by doctors, Geisler felt Turman also deserved credit for her progress.

"You've done a lot of this by yourself..." the judge said. "I feel comfortable you're on the right track."

If Turman keeps up the progress, she could get a full release, Geisler said, but only after following her outpatient care for some time.