Crime

Man Released 8 Years After Beheading Son

| by Lauren Briggs

A Virginia father who beheaded his son with a kitchen knife eight years ago was granted a conditional release on May 8.

Joseph Henry Hagerman III, a 42-year-old who suffers from schizophrenia, was cleared by a judge for release from a state psychiatric hospital after mental health officials testified in court that he was ready, reports The Virginian-Pilot.

Psychologist Maria Burke, who assisted with Hagerman's treatment at the Eastern State facility, testified that he has been a "model patient" who has displayed "100 percent compliance" and has not caused any problems during the nearly 150 times he has been allowed to leave the hospital for up to 48 hours at a time.

"He currently spends more time outside of the hospital than inside the hospital," said Burke, adding that staffers have "had absolutely no issues with Mr. Hagerman," according to The Virginian-Pilot.

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On weekdays, Hagerman will live at an adult foster care facility, and he will stay with his parents on Saturdays and Sundays. Psychiatrists, caseworkers and other officials will meet with him regularly to ensure that he is adjusting to life well and is taking his medications.

"We're just happy that it's over with and that he's been given a second chance," his sister, Maria Teresa Lancaster, said on her way out of the courthouse. "My brother didn't do it out of malice. He's mentally ill. When he's medicated, he's fine and stable."

In February 2009, Hagerman decapitated his son, 5-year-old Joshua Hagerman, while the boy was putting away his toys in the family's living room.

Wife Shirley Hagerman unsuccessfully tried to grab the father's serrated kitchen knife and ended up injured as he cut the boy's head off while repeatedly telling him to give his life to Jesus.

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"If I didn't take my son's life, he would have lost his eternal salvation," Hagerman said shortly after the killing in an interview with WVEC-TV, according to The Virginian-Pilot. "I know it's a horrible thing."

The man reportedly had stopped taking his psychiatric medication, was not getting enough sleep and had started praying and became obsessed with reading the Book of Revelations in the Bible.

"I didn't want him to lose his salvation," Hagerman added. "I wanted him to go fast. I didn't want him to be tortured."

According to WTVR's legal analyst Todd Stone, it is common practice to eventually release those found not guilty by reason of insanity; however, it is much more difficult to ensure that the person takes their medication when they are free.

"If you're found not guilty by reason of insanity you go into the mental health facility and they try to restore you, they try to get you back to a position where you go back into the public, and the idea behind it is you haven't committed a criminal offense because you never had that intent to begin with," said Stone.

Sources: Virginian-Pilot (2), WTVR / Photo Credit: Surrey Country Council News/Flickr

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