St. Helens man remanded to Oregon Health Authority for May killing of caseworker

by: COLUMBIA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - Brent Reddby: FILE PHOTO - Jennifer WarrenColumbia County Circuit Judge Steve Reed on Tuesday morning found a St. Helens man guilty of murder except for the reason of insanity in the May 2012 slaying of a mental health caseworker.

Brent K. Redd Jr., 31, has been remanded into the custody of the Oregon Health Authority for his murder of Jennifer Lynn Warren, the 39-year-old St. Helens woman and caseworker for Columbia Community Mental Health who had been visiting Redd’s home on the morning of Sunday, May 20, to administer his medication.

During that visit, Redd, who is schizophrenic and has a history of violent crimes, stabbed Warren to death in his St. Helens home. The stabbing occurred three days before Warren’s birthday.

The court found that, “as a result of mental disease or defect at the time of engaging in criminal conduct, the defendant lacked substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of the conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.”

District Attorney Stephen Atchison said he had relied on the reports from psychiatrists who had evaluated Redd at length, including the assessments of two psychiatrists following Warren’s death, before deciding to forego a trial and agree to the guilty except for the reason of insanity plea. The recent psychiatrists’ assessments matched two earlier evaluations of Redd’s mental health conducted in 2006.

“When you get that many psychiatrists agreeing, it’s pretty hard to go against it,” Atchison said.

Atchison said he is not entirely satisfied with the result, but said in all likelihood it would have been the same, with considerable more expense, following a three-week trial.

Warren’s mother, Theresa Armstrong, read a victim’s impact statement to the court as Redd sat calmly and with little outward expression at the defense table.

“Her life was taken by one selfish act,” Armstrong said. “There is such a hole in my heart. I have never been without her. There is such a void.”

Redd’s lead defense attorney, Patrick Sweeney, said his client has expressed remorse for the crime.

Redd has been placed under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board for his care, custody and treatment for life, though in theory the board could recommend him for release at any time. Surviving family members would be notified of any changes to Redd’s status, such as escape or discharge, while held at the Oregon State Hospital or in the event his case would be considered for review.

Redd had been convicted in 2007 for the 2005 crime of attempted murder except for the reason of insanity after trying to strangle his mother, Debra Redd, while living in The Dalles in Wasco County. In that case, Redd was committed to the Oregon State Hospital and placed under the jurisdiction of the state psychiatric board. Following an evaluation, including a secondary assessment by Columbia Community Mental Health, the public nonprofit mental health agency contracted to manage mental health care in Columbia County, Redd was conditionally released in August 2010. As part of the conditional release he was required to attend therapy sessions, adhere to a curfew and accept frequent visits from his caseworker, among other restrictions

Following Warren’s death, several reports indicated Redd’s medication was being reduced in the lead up to a medical procedure.

‘Root cause’ report raises communication faults

An Oregon Health Authority report completed in October and provided to The Spotlight upon request found several deficiencies in how Redd’s case was being managed, including faulty communication between CCMH, the state psychiatric board and the health authority.

The heavily redacted report identified as a root cause poor communication of risk and the need for enhanced supervision of high-risk cases as systemic problems that may have factored in Warren’s death.

In one finding, the report, under the heading “Communication,” states, “There appeared to be a discrepancy in understanding between the CCMH and the state psychiatric board regarding what (redacted) the PSRB would want to be notified about.”

It continues, “CCMH’s understanding was that (redacted) changes were not something the Board needed notification about. Communication from the Board indicates that major clinical decisions, such as (redacted), require timely notification to determine if discharge conditions require modification.”

The health authority also found CCMH was late in filing its monthly report with the state psychiatric board on Redd.

It is not specifically mentioned in the report if CCMH had failed to notify the state psychiatric board that it had reduced Redd’s medication, and questions posed to Oregon Health Authority staff regarding whether CCMH had informed PSRB of the reduced medication regimen were not answered on the grounds that information would violate federal law restricting the reporting of health information.

Roland Migchielson, director for CCMH, said he too has not seen an unredacted version of the report and had only received the report late last week. “I would love to have an unredacted report, but right now that hasn’t happened,” he said.

Mary Claire Buckley, executive director for the state psychiatric board, declined to comment and pointed to pending litigation as cause.

“At this point we’re not commenting on anything,” Buckley said.

In a December response to an earlier Spotlight inquiry, Migchielson said his agency has taken several steps to ensure the safety of its caseworkers, including a risk assessment process to identify and prioritize risks facing community mental health agencies and installation of a “panic button” system at residential and outpatient facilities.

He said CCMH also provided staff with training in nationally recognized and evidence-based practices, like mental health first aid.

The OHA report lists six system improvement recommendations, including development of a system for OPSRB to immediately identify missed reports and a system for mental health agencies, such as CCMH, to self-assess their competence for violence risk management.

Other recommendations include risk information availability, interagency communication for high-risk cases, consideration of placement for higher level care, better clinical supervision and improved OPSRB processes — which includes changes to its hearing and training procedures.

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