TAMPA — The movie A Beautiful Mind struck a familiar chord with Suzanne M. Jensen, the woman accused of sneaking into MacDill Air Force Base four times.
The 2001 film recounts the true story of a brilliant Nobel laureate in economics whose mental illness and the paranoid delusions it produced nearly ruined him.
"She saw that twice with me and she was very intrigued," said Jensen's mother, Karla Straube, 73, who lives in California. "She said, 'Oh, that's just like me.' She felt a real connection to the character in that movie and felt her symptoms were very much like that."
Her daughter, she said, may now think she is a secret government agent.
Jensen, 51, was in a federal courtroom Wednesday as her attorney asked a judge to release her into her family's custody so she can be taken to a Virginia mental health facility where she has previously been a patient.
But U.S. magistrate Judge Anthony E. Porcelli said at a hearing that he may have to first decide if Jensen is mentally incompetent or fit to stand trial on several misdemeanor charges.
A hearing is expected to soon be scheduled to decide the issue.
Steve Baer, Jensen's attorney, said Jensen's previous mental health treatment had gone well. "She didn't escape from the facility," he said. "She was discharged."
A misdemeanor charge Jensen faces in Maryland for shoplifting from the Fort Meade Army and Air Force Exchange Service in April 2012 is expected to be dismissed.
With Jensen facing misdemeanors for sneaking into MacDill, the judge said he was eager to resolve her case quickly because she is in custody and, even if convicted, she faces little jail time.
Straube, who did not attend the court hearing, said her daughter does well when she is on medication.
She said she has not seen Jensen in three years. Straube said her daughter does not have a military background.
She said her daughter graduated in 1984 with a degree in genetics from the University of California at Berkeley and was a competitive swimmer there. Jensen worked for the U.S. Forest Service for about 10 years.
Jensen has been accused of sneaking into MacDill four times since 2012 — once by climbing a wall with the help of a trash can.
She also has been accused of sneaking into bases in Colorado, Georgia and North Carolina.
"I think she thinks she's employed or she's going to a job interview or she's actually employed" at the bases she enters, Straube said. "She's no harm to anybody. She really thinks she has a job."
Straube said her daughter usually has no memory of what she did when she is off her medication.
Researcher John Martin contributed to this report. William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3432.