DADE CITY — After a judge decided this week that Enrique Guzan Garcia should be released from a state mental hospital and sent to an unsecured treatment center in Tarpon Springs, the center decided it didn't want him.
So the search is on now for a new home for Garcia, and in the meantime, federal immigration authorities appear to be moving toward trying to deport him.
Garcia, a 36-year-old Mexican in the United States illegally, was accused in a gruesome 1999 murder in Tommytown in which a man was stabbed 31 times, including eight times in the groin. At trial in 2003, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity, telling doctors he was urged on in the slaying by a monkey in his yard.
He has been receiving mental health treatment in a state hospital in Pembroke Pines since then, but this year sought to be released to a less-restrictive facility. Doctors say he is no longer a threat to himself, although he continues to have delusions.
Under the law, Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa said he had no choice but to grant the request. He reluctantly decided Monday to send Garcia to the Agency for Community Treatment Services on Old Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs.
By Tuesday, officials at the agency, known as ACTS, were having second thoughts. Christa Trenz-Brower, the program administrator for Pinellas County, said in court Wednesday morning that media attention about the story had upset other residents at the facility, which typically does not house people with violent pasts.
The St. Petersburg Times published an article about Garcia's release in Tuesday's Pasco, Clearwater and North Pinellas editions.
"We had articles in the paper, so the other clients knew about it," Trenz-Brower said. "I need to take care of the rest of my population there."
Siracusa also noted that youth baseball fields sit about 100 yards from the center, where residents come and go on foot for shopping trips and other outings.
Trenz-Brower said ACTS runs a secured facility in Tampa that is better suited to house Garcia.
But Garcia's attorney didn't like that idea.
"I don't see why that would be a better placement than where he is now," said Assistant Public Defender Violet Assaid. Staff members at the Pembroke Pines hospital, she said, know him and he knows them. Garcia speaks only Spanish and has physical ailments in addition to his mental illness.
Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia (no relation to the defendant) said immigration officials have told him they placed a detainer on Enrique Garcia, indicating that deportation proceedings are ahead.
Siracusa wrote an order modifying Garcia's custody status to say that whatever treatment center ends up housing him has to notify immigration authorities that he's there, and hand him over if requested.
He reset the case for another hearing on Oct. 6.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.