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Mother Guilty of Killing Children Can't Find Home : Transition: Rejected by halfway houses, woman must go back to state mental hospital.

November 11, 1994|SUSAN MARQUEZ OWEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Laguna Niguel woman who was declared insane after she shot and killed her two daughters in 1991 will be sent back to a state mental hospital as early as next week because Orange County halfway houses have refused to accept her, a state official said Thursday.

More than half a dozen local board-and-care homes for court-committed mental health patients rejected Kristine Marie Cushing, a former Sunday school teacher, because of the nature of her crimes and community reaction to the prospect of having her housed in any neighborhood.

"The placement was blown out of the water because of the community outcry," said Thomas G. Najdowski, coordinator of the Conditional Release Program in Orange County. "The board-and-care facilities got gun-shy."

Cushing has been held at the Orange County Central Women's Jail awaiting placement since Orange County Superior Court Judge James A. Jackman agreed to the move last month. She will be sent back to Patton State Hospital, Najdowski said, until authorities can find a home that will accept her. Authorities are considering trying to move her to a home outside the county.

Orange County residents first got wind of Cushing's return when authorities proposed transferring her to a Costa Mesa home. After neighbors, business owners and a local homeowners association called the facility to complain, the home decided against accepting her.

Publicity about her rejection and the neighborhood's alarm made other facilities equally reluctant to take her in, Najdowski said. Board-and-care homes are privately run, he said, and can choose who they accept or reject. Owners often must consider their standing in the community when making those decisions.

Najdowski said he believed that Cushing, who was examined by three different groups of psychologists and psychiatrists before the move was approved, was ready for the change. Her attorney, Michael J. Cassidy, had argued for the transfer as a step toward her becoming a productive citizen instead of spending her life in the restrictive environment of a state mental hospital, where an extended stay could strip her of any ability to be self-reliant.

"It was not just a slam-dunk process--a lot of thought went into it," Najdowski said. "These homes offer comprehensive treatment and supervision."

But prosecutors opposed the move as a premature step for Cushing. She was previously released to an outpatient program in Ventura County but was sent back to a state mental hospital after she began suffering delusions.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Tom Glazier could not be reached for comment, but he has noted that one psychiatrist who evaluated Cushing for the prosecution also felt the move was premature.

Cushing was a Brownie troop leader, a Sunday school teacher and a seemingly devoted mother when she "snapped" in October, 1991, under the stress of a severe heart condition, depression and a pending divorce from her husband of 17 years.

In a rare concurrence, prosecuting and defense attorneys agreed that Cushing was not guilty by reason of insanity of killing her daughters, ages 8 and 4. She was remanded to Patton State Hospital in February, 1992.

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