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Schizophrenic ruled insane in Air Force veteran's killing in Falcon

February 7, 2018 Updated: February 8, 2018 at 8:47 am
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photo - Timothy Hagins
Timothy Hagins 

A Missouri man who randomly killed an Air Force veteran at his Falcon home in August 2016 before barging into a different house declaring, "I am here to slaughter the lambs," has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Timothy Hagins, a schizophrenic who turned violent after going off his medications, will serve an indefinite commitment at Colorado Mental Health Institute Pueblo - the result of a bench trial Monday at which a judge found he was legally insane at the time of the killing and subsequent attacks.

"There's not a day goes by that we don't think about his victims," said Hagins' father, Geoff Hagins of Independence, Mo.

The elder Hagins said his son was in the grip of paranoid delusions when he drove from his father's home to Colorado Springs without explanation or warning.

Timothy Hagins, 36, had been treated for schizophrenia for more than a decade. He exhibited no violent tendencies, and had no criminal history, prior to killing retired Air Force Tech Sgt. David Stechman and terrorizing a family in Elbert.

The Hagins family blames a change in his medications for setting off delusional episodes in which he heard commands from "demonic voices."

Police said Tim Hagins used a vehicle ice scraper, mop handle, wooden spatula and wooden dowel to stab and strangle Stechman, 56, in his Falcon garage.

Four hours later, he entered an Elbert home 12 miles away and threatened a family, including a young girl, with a knife. Her father tackled Hagins and held him until authorities arrived.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Theresa Cisneros handed down her insanity acquittal Monday at a bench trial lasting less than hour.

She based her verdict on the sole witness, Dr. Thomas Gray of the state hospital, who told the court that a lengthy evaluation by state psychiatrists had concluded that Hagins didn't know the difference between right and wrong and wasn't capable of forming criminal intent necessary for convictions.

The judge also found that Hagins was insane when he attacked a nurse and two sheriff's deputies in the days after his arrest, acquitting him of felony counts.

In confronting the insanity defense, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person wasn't insane at the time. The lead prosecutor in the case, Jeff Lindsey, said an independent doctor hired by the prosecution concurred with the state evaluation that Hagins was insane during the attacks.

An indefinite commitment to the state hospital means that Hagins will be held for treatment unless his doctors determine he no longer suffers from a mental illness or is no longer a threat to himself or others.

Patients may petition for release at any time, said Dr. Patrick Fox, chief medical officer for Department of Human Services, which runs the facility.

Hagins' attorney, David Foley, said Hagins has a "low likelihood" of release given the gravity of the attacks and the ongoing threat that he could become violent again if he were to go off medication. However, a Denver Post investigation in 2015 found that "three-fifths of 41 killers determined 'not guilty by reason of insanity' over the past 25 years in Colorado" were moved from the state hospital into halfway houses across the state, sometimes within a few years of being committed.

The attacks in El Paso County came after Hagins' family called 911 operators in El Paso County more than a dozen times trying to get someone to locate and intercept him.

They had learned about his whereabouts through Hagins' texts to a girlfriend.

Until he left home, his family didn't know he had stopped taking medication, Geoff Hagins said. He said Timothy Hagins switched to a new psychiatrist who put him on antipsychotic pills instead of injections, leaving the onus on Hagins to medicate himself.

Timothy Hagins remained unstable for several weeks after his arrest, leading to additional felony charges against him. Once he resumed medications, the violence stopped.

Stechman was living with his wife in unincorporated El Paso County after retiring from the Air Force. He was father to two adult children as well as a number of foster children, according to his obituary.

"We're having a hard time with the fact that he chose not to take his medicine and then it made him go into a psychotic episode and murder my husband," said his widow, Janis. She said her family wanted to work with elected representatives to pursue any changes that might spare "anyone else from going through this."

Foley disputed that Hagins "chose" to discontinue his medications, saying that the switch in Hagins' medications could have made them less effective, altering his client's ability to make rational decisions.

Timothy Hagins has no memory of attacking Stechman, but lives with the knowledge that he's responsible.

"He's ashamed and he's horrified," Foley said.

"Most sane people can't comprehend insanity," Geoff Hagins said. "How do you explain it to them?"

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