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Hudson man not guilty in fatal crash by reason of insanity

Richard Barrett, 40, has bipolar disorder, his wife says.

Richard Barrett, 40, has bipolar disorder, his wife says.

BROOKSVILLE — Shortly after racing up U.S. 19 last year, crashing into vehicles along the way, Richard Barrett tried to explain to deputies what happened.

"Something took over my mind," he told investigators, an arrest report states.

On Monday, a judge signed an order ruling that Barrett is not guilty of vehicular homicide because he was insane that day.

On Feb. 15, 2012, Barrett's Ford minivan slammed into the back of 72-year-old Charles Hesser's Toyota truck near Northcliffe Boulevard in Spring Hill, reports state. Hesser's pickup veered across the median and flipped six times. The retired plant superintendent who wintered with his wife in Weeki Wachee died 50 days later.

Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr.'s order does not come as a surprise. Barrett, 40, of Hudson had already been found not guilty by reason of insanity of two other charges stemming from his rampage that day: leaving the scene of a crash in Pasco and battery on a law enforcement officer in Hernando.

The Pasco crash happened before the collision with Hesser, and the scuffle with a Hernando deputy happened afterward. Merritt's order notes that Barrett was evaluated by three doctors in 2012, and all three deemed him insane at the time of those two alleged offenses.

Given that, Assistant State Attorney Bill Catto agreed to stipulate that Barrett was insane at the time of the collision with Hesser, too.

"Although a lot of people probably feel this is not a satisfactory resolution, it was pretty much mandated by those previous court findings," Catto said.

Barrett, who bailed out of jail shortly after his arrest, will remain on conditional release until a judge orders otherwise. He must continue treatment, take his medication as prescribed, and avoid drugs and alcohol, among other conditions. His treatment provider must submit updates to the court every six months.

Barrett could be involuntarily committed to a state mental hospital if he violates the terms of Merritt's order.

None of the three doctors who evaluated Barrett last year recommended commitment to a hospital, according to Merritt's order. One of the doctors noted that Barrett's psychotropic medications had the overt symptoms of his mental illness "well controlled (in remission)."

The mental illness is not specified in the order. After Barrett's arrest, his wife, Rachel, told the Times that her husband suffers from bipolar disorder and had the condition under control with the help of medication until just before his arrest.

Assistant Public Defender Lisa Martin, Barrett's attorney for the homicide case, called the resolution a fair one.

As for Barrett, "He's doing really well," Martin said.

Another judge indefinitely suspended Barrett's driver's license during a hearing on the Hernando case last year. Martin said he has not expressed to her an interest in driving again.

Hesser's widow, Brenda, could not be reached Thursday.

"She doesn't like the fact that this is what has to be done," Catto said, "but she understands it based on what's happened."

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes on Twitter.

Hudson man not guilty in fatal crash by reason of insanity 12/05/13 [Last modified: Thursday, December 5, 2013 10:44pm]
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