DADE CITY — A judge on Monday reluctantly ordered a mentally ill killer into an unsecured treatment facility, lacking any lawful reason to keep him locked up in a hospital any longer.
Enrique Guzan Garcia was accused in the 1999 murder of a Tommytown man who was stabbed 31 times, including eight times in the groin.
Garcia admitted to the crime but was found not guilty by reason of insanity, telling doctors he was influenced by a monkey he found in a pot in his front yard. He has been in a secure state hospital ever since.
This year his lawyers petitioned to have him released to a less restrictive environment, saying he has made progress in treatment and is no longer a threat.
Prosecutors objected but acknowledged that Garcia doesn't meet the criteria to stay in a state hospital.
"He's not a danger to himself anymore, he's taking his medications, he hasn't had any incidents. He hasn't acted out," said Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia, who is not related to Enrique Garcia.
Still, the prosecutor said he's not comfortable with the release.
Enrique Garcia will be sent in the next few days to the Agency for Community Treatment Services residential facility on Old Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs. He'll be there under order by Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa, but the facility is not guarded and nothing would physically prevent him from leaving.
"He stabbed a guy 31 times and … as (recently) as April, he told the doctors there he was communicating with his deceased mother telepathically. That doesn't sound like a person who was in his right mind," Manny Garcia said. "But that's only one of the factors."
Siracusa said Monday he was reluctant to order the release but did not think the law allowed Enrique Garcia to continue to be detained.
He attached almost two dozen conditions to his order, including that Garcia can't own firearms, he can't take any drugs not prescribed by his doctor and he can't drink any alcohol.
In a hearing last week, the judge attempted to involve federal immigration authorities in the matter because Garcia is a Mexican citizen in the United States illegally.
From the bench, Siracusa called seven different phone numbers to various offices of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He got nowhere.
The prosecutor worked on that angle too and said immigration authorities told him they plan to begin deportation proceedings.
"It's just a matter of them figuring out which office is going to handle it, the Miami office or the Tampa office," Manny Garcia said.
Assistant Public Defender Tom Hanlon represented Enrique Garcia during his trial though he did not handle this phase of the case.
He attended last week's hearing — where he got a hug from his former client — and said the judge's ruling is good news.
"He's certainly way, way, way better than when I first got him," Hanlon said.
"I think the professionals did a good job and they restored his competency."
If Garcia is deported, Hanlon said, his current public defender has been working with Mexican officials to help him get re-established in his own country.
Siracusa's order also contains a condition that if immigration officials come for him, he must go voluntarily.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.