A Daphne man who was accused of beating his own father to death with a golf club five years ago may be released from secure state custody soon, but only if a Baldwin County judge agrees with recommendations from the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH).
Brent Bolar, 34 at the time of the crime, was reportedly unmedicated and in the midst of a schizophrenic episode when he attacked his father, Andrew, 68, in October 2015. According to testimony in his bond hearing, the defendant called 911 immediately afterward and implicated himself in the beating, but refused to administer CPR even though his father was still breathing. The victim later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.
While he was held on a $750,000 bond and after evaluations by physicians and expert witnesses, Brent Bolar was awarded the rare verdict of “not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect” in 2017, but has since been involuntarily committed at Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility in Tuscaloosa. On Nov. 8, ADMH filed a proposal to discharge Bolar to the East Alabama Mental Health Center (EAMHC), an unsecured group home in Dadeville, and Circuit Court Judge Jody Bishop held a hearing on the matter Dec 3. The Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office is opposing the recommendation.
During the virtual hearing, Bolar appeared on camera from Taylor Hardin, sitting hunched and silent alongside Dr. Marie Glenn as she told the court her patient is “doing very well … cooperative with employees and rules” and has been “appropriately social and free of psychosis and mood symptoms.”
Glenn said Bolar has regularly taken a regimen of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers and has had just a single episode of aggression during his treatment, when he attacked a man who shared the same name as someone who hit him when he was a boy. Glenn said the man’s name was “a trigger,” but Bolar acknowledged it and took accountability for his action.
“[Bolar] is in a unit for people who are stabilized and understand they need to stay on medication and are seen as ready to manage their own transition with supervision,” she said. “The next step is to move him to a facility where they are taking medication by themselves … I don’t think he is a danger to himself or others.”
Selena Sanford, intellectual disabilities services and residential services director at EAMHC, testified that if transferred, Bolar would live in an unlocked, 16-bed facility where his self-medication would be monitored and he would be responsible for attending group therapy and doing chores. Sandford said the facility has cameras but they are not always monitored, and those who leave the facility without permission are reported to law enforcement and prosecutors in their cases.
Prior to the hearing, Assistant District Attorney John Oxford told Lagniappe a successful plea by reason of mental defect is unusual — it’s still called “insanity” in federal law — but the law indeed allows it.
“The determination was if he’s properly medicated he would be competent to stand trial, but he was not. Plus he was in the midst of an episode during the offense,” Oxford said. “And also, there was an agreement he was a danger to himself and others. In this set of circumstances, the family was very cooperative. Mr. Bolar had been dealing with [schizophrenia] for a while and it’s always rough when violence occurs within a family, because the defendant’s people and the victim’s people are the same people. And it was very much agreed by the family and our office and the defense that he needed to be committed to Taylor Hardin.”
Oxford added it was an especially “sad situation” because before Bolar’s diagnosis, he was a standout student-athlete at McGill Toolen Catholic High School who went on to play football at the University of Central Florida and even sought a master’s degree before symptoms of schizophrenia began to manifest in his early 20s. Further, Bolar’s family, who recognized the disorder long before the incident which killed his father, has been supportive of his treatment and eventual release, Oxford said.
Regardless, at the hearing Dec. 3, Assistant District Attorney Katy Sipper told the court her concerns are that EAMHC is not a locked facility, and it employs just two or three workers to supervise the 16 patients.
“To me, I feel like this is setting us up for issues down the road,” she said. “This defendant and his underlying charges were a crime of circumstance. What is to say we would be able to protect the other residents of that group home as well as the public at large?”
Bolar’s defense attorney, John Beck, told Lagniappe the state has few options, as Taylor Hardin is not set up to be a lifetime commitment facility, but he also believes Bolar is no longer a “rational danger to the public.”
The “insanity” plea, he said, requires “a high standard.”
“It has to be to a level of insanity for somebody to not be responsible for what they did,” Beck said, adding he’s only seen it successfully used one or two other times in his career. “But at the same time, he certainly was responsible and will remain in the state’s custody in one form or another.”
Separately, Bolar himself wrote Bishop less than three months after his verdict to request a release on his own. On March 5, 2018, Bolar scribbled a one-page letter to the judge seeking a transfer to AltaPointe in Daphne.
“It was said by the court that I was a danger to myself and others,” he wrote. “I have been around the inmates now for 23 months and have shown no aggression nor have I shown any suicidal tendencies. I am asking for my situation to be expedited. If it is in your power I would like to be sent to AltaPointe in Daphne. I am ready to stay on my medication and get a fresh start on life.”
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