Oregon Officials Face Wrongful Death Suit for Releasing Alleged Murderer

(CN) – A mother of five filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Oregon State Psychiatric Security Review Board in state court Wednesday, accusing it of prematurely releasing an inmate who killed two people after release.

Less than a month after being discharged, Anthony Montwheeler allegedly stabbed his ex-wife to death and then intentionally drove head-on into the car of Jessica and David Bates during a police chase, resulting in David’s death.

Jessica Bates sued the Oregon State Psychiatric Security Review Board, the Oregon State Hospital, the Oregon Health Authority and Dr. Mukesh Mittall in Malheur County Circuit Court on behalf of herself, her husband’s estate and the couple’s five children.

Lawyers for the State of Oregon recommended against Montwheeler’s release at a December 2016 hearing, Bates claims, and psychologist Brian Hartman warned the board that Montwheeler was still dangerous.

“If in the community without supervision, his risk of violence would be high and it would most likely to target an intimate partner of other family members,” Hartman testified at the hearing.

But the board found that the state and Montwheeler’s psychiatrist Mittall had not proven he was still affected by bipolar disorder.

Montwheeler was released and on the morning of Jan. 9, 2017, prosecutors say he fatally stabbed his ex-wife, Annita Harmon, in the parking lot of a convenience store. Then he fled and intentionally drove his black pickup truck head-on into the Bates’ car on a two-lane highway outside the small town of Ontario, Oregon, according to the lawsuit.

After that, Montwheeler was returned to the Oregon State Hospital, where he was declared unfit to proceed with his criminal case because of a qualifying mental disorder. He is scheduled to go to trial in 2019 on charges of murder, kidnapping and assault in Malheur County Circuit Court.

Bates, represented by Bruce Skaug, is suing for $500,000 for the wrongful death of her husband.

Rebeka Gibson-King, spokeswoman for the Oregon State Hospital, did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday evening.

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