Twenty-five years after he killed seven people in a shooting rampage at the Cal State Fullerton library, Edward Charles Allaway has won a powerful ally in his effort to gain freedom: his doctors at a state mental hospital.
Until now, state psychiatrists had joined prosecutors and the families of shooting victims in opposing Allaway's release. But staff at Patton State Hospital have concluded in a report that Allaway is healed and no longer represents a threat to the community. The report notes that the 62-year-old patient is now a fitness enthusiast who also enjoys karaoke singing.
Allaway has spent most of the past quarter century in state hospitals after a judge declared him not guilty by reason of insanity for the July 12, 1976, shooting spree--the worst mass killing in Orange County history.
Allaway, a library janitor, said he opened fire on co-workers at the campus media center because they had taunted him.
Orange County judges have rejected Allaway's three previous attempts to gain freedom. But even prosecutors acknowledge that the support of Patton's staff will make Allaway's current request the most serious ever.
As a result, relatives of Allaway's victims are mobilizing to oppose his release, beginning this Friday at a hearing in which Superior Court Judge Frank F. Fasel will set a date for a full hearing in the spring.
"This would be the worst precedent in California: releasing a mass murderer," said Patricia Almazan, whose father, Frank Teplansky, a university graphic artist, was slain in the attack. "This man should never, ever see the light of day."
Attorneys and legal experts said they could think of no case in U.S. history in which someone who has killed so many people has been set free. Still, the judge must base his decision on Allaway's mental health, not on the severity of his crimes. And experts said prison doctors are especially credible in such cases because they treat and interact with patients daily.
Allaway's lawyer said he believes the release is long overdue, noting that outside psychiatrists have previously recommended his release.
"If this was a case where there had been two or three dead bodies, he would have been out years ago," said Deputy Public Defender John Bovee. "I think this is an appropriate time to reintegrate him very gradually back into society. For the protection of society and for Ed's protection, he needs to be closely supervised."
Allaway carried a rifle into the university library and roamed the basement and first floor. He was selective with his victims, shooting some and sparing others. He shot nine people; two survived.
"What he did had such an impact on so many lives. It's a matter of public concern," said Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Daniel Wagner, who is opposing Allaway's release. "When the evidence is heard, everyone will be concerned about the danger of having him out."
Fasel can authorize Allaway's continued hospitalization only if he concludes that Allaway remains a danger to society because of mental illness. Otherwise, the judge must allow Allaway's supervised release to a community that all sides agree should not be Orange County.
The staff at Patton State Hospital, in San Bernardino County, said in a letter to the court that Allaway's illness is "in remission," without the need for psychiatric medication. The staff noted that Allaway now counsels patients in the weight room and helps with activities such as holiday decorations.
"Mr. Allaway would benefit from a carefully developed and individualized discharge plan," the hospital's letter states. "The clinical staff are of the opinion Mr. Allaway would no longer be a danger to the health and safety of others, including himself, while under supervision and treatment in the community."
It is highly unusual for a mental hospital to make such a recommendation, particularly in the case of a notorious mass murderer, said UCLA law professor Peter Arenella, a national expert in mental disability defenses.
"State psychiatrists are much more likely to keep killers locked up even though they have recovered their mental health than to prematurely release a dangerous killer back to the community," Arenella said. "Given the pressure on state psychiatrists to keep individuals confined for the rest of their lives, a recommendation to release him should be taken quite seriously by any court."
Bill Summers, executive director at Patton, declined to discuss his staff's findings. If Allaway is granted release, he would be housed either in an apartment or halfway house and be required to meet regularly with state therapists. After one year, he could then petition the court to end any restrictions.
The path to the upcoming hearing was set in a Santa Ana courtroom more than 20 years ago. A jury deadlocked in the sanity portion of the trial, so the prosecution and defense allowed Superior Court Judge Robert P. Kneeland to make the call. Kneeland found Allaway, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, not guilty by reason of insanity.