Tuesday, April 6, 2004
Fentress won't contest confinement
By Larry Fisher-Hertz
RIVERHEAD, Suffolk County -- Confessed cannibal and killer Albert Fentress will likely remain in a locked mental hospital for at least two more years.
That was the gist of a brief court proceeding Monday morning in which the former Poughkeepsie school teacher said he would not contest the state Office of Mental Hy-giene's order keeping him inside the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center in Orange County.
Fentress announced his decision not to oppose the state order during a seven-minute proceeding before state Supreme Court Justice James Catterson.
''You wish to withdraw your petition?'' Fentress' lawyer, Kim Darrow, asked his client.
''Yes,'' the 63-year-old Fentress replied.
Fentress, who was a Poughkeepsie Middle School history teacher, confessed in 1980 to the Aug. 20, 1979, killing of 18-year-old Paul Masters. He told authorities he lured the Town of Poughkeepsie teen into his home on Grand Avenue in the City of Poughkeepsie, gave him vodka and beer to drink, then tied him up in the basement. He cut off and ate some of Masters' body parts, then shot him in the head.
Fentress was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has been confined to mental institutions ever since. Under state law, he is entitled every two years to seek his release, and between 1996 and 2002, he had done so every time he had the opportunity.
Assistant D.A. pleased
Following Monday's court proceeding, Dutchess County Senior Assistant District Attorney Edward McLoughlin said he was pleased with Fentress' decision.
''Mr. Fentress has chosen to stay where everyone believes he belongs,'' Mc-Loughlin said.
Fentress appeared relaxed as he answered his attorney's questions before Catterson. He declined to comment further as he left the courthouse, escorted by a security officer who had accompanied him on the 2 1/2-hour ride to the Suffolk County Courthouse Annex from the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center in New Hampton.
Fentress' decision means he will not be eligible to seek his release from the mental hospital through the petition process until March 27, 2006.
But Darrow said he intended to pursue his client's release through another legal maneuver. He said he was seeking to overturn Catterson's September 2002 ruling that Fentress was too dangerous to remain at the non-secure Pilgrim Psychiatric Center in Suffolk County and belonged instead at the more secure Mid-Hudson facility.
Catterson issued the order after two former Poughkeepsie men testified at a hearing that Fentress had molested them while they were young boys during the same year Fentress killed Masters. The judge ruled Fentress needed more intensive treatment because he never disclosed the sex abuse of the boys in the 22 years of therapy he had undergone since he was committed to the mental hospital.
Darrow claims in his appeal that state authorities failed to renew a document known as an "order of conditions.'' The document describes what treatment Fentress was required to follow when he was released from Mid-Hudson and transferred to a Long Island mental hospital in December 1984.
The five-year order of conditions automatically expired in 1989 and was never renewed, Darrow contends in the appeal. He argues Catterson could not legally send Fentress back to the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center in 2002 because Fentress was not bound to follow any prescribed treatment.
An appellate court rejected Darrow's claim and upheld Catterson's ruling, but Darrow said he planned to appeal the case to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals.
Fentress' appeal of Catterson's ruling is not automatic. He must first obtain permission from the Court of Appeals to have the appeal considered.
Darrow said Monday he planned to file court papers ''very soon'' seeking such permission.