Sunday, June 17, 2007

Man, 95, Accused of Trying to Kill Wife May Get a Guardian


Freeman Stittsworth, a 95-year-old man accused of trying to kill his wife at a local nursing home, is scheduled for an emergency guardianship hearing Wednesday. A judge today said that if Stittsworth is appointed a guardian, he will be released from jail.

Stittsworth had been incarcerated without bond at the Manatee County jail since June 2, when Bradenton Police arrested him after he allegedly tried to smother his wife, Ruth, with a pillow, in her room at the Westminister Towers nursing home in downtown Bradenton.

On Sunday Stittsworth was transferred from the jail to Manatee Memorial Hospital because he had a heart attack, said his lawyer, Jennifer Joynt-Sanchez, an assistant public defender.

Sanchez, during a bond hearing this afternoon, asked Senior Judge Harry Rapkin to release her client from custody. Although he is at the hospital, a guard keeps post outside his hospital bedroom door, Joynt-Sanchez said.

She said her client has no criminal record and that Ruth Stittsworth was not injured. She also said there are a handful of secure health care facilities willing to house Stittsworth.

A prosecutor argued Stittsworth should stay locked up.

"His age and medical condition should not trump the seriousness of the crime," said Erica Valcarcel, an assistant state attorney. "There is nothing to prevent him from re-entering the facility and hurting her (his wife) again."

Rapkin disagreed with Valcarcel and released Stittsworth on his own recognizance, pending his transfer to a secure health care facility and him being appointed an emergency guardian. Another condition of his release included he cannot contact his wife.

An emergency guardianship hearing, requested by Stittsworth's son from Pennsylvania, is scheduled before Judge Durand Adams Wednesday.

"The judge will consider whether or not there is imminent danger to Mr. Stittsworth and if he lacks insight and judgement in making decision for himself," said Erika Dine, who represents Stittsworth's son.

Dine said Stittsworth's son plans to hire Ashley Butler as his father's emergency guardian. If Butler is appointed, she would oversee matters like his finances and health care. She would also hire a private attorney for Stittsworth.

If he's released, Stittsworth likely won't qualify for the public defender's office because it appears he's not indigent, Joynt-Sanchez said.

No comments: