Nurse charged in mother's death could be released Woman was committed after 1982 slaying

December 24, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Doctors at Crownsville Hospital Center say a nurse committed nine years ago after she was charged with stabbing her mother 40 times and leaving the woman's body in a trash bag outside their Annapolis home is ready to be released.

They planned to release Pearl Rose Ford Jan. 5, but Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner, who ordered that she be committed, has scheduled a hearing Jan. 14 to decide whether the release is warranted.

Mrs. Ford, 51, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1982 slaying of her bedridden, 76-year-old mother.

An unemployed nurse, Mrs. Ford had been committed to mental hospitals 10 times in the eight years before the murder and was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time, court records show.

At the time she was committed, she also reported experiencing hallucinations, and believed one of her children was the child actor Gary Coleman.

But in a Dec. 18 letter to Judge Lerner, her psychiatrist, Dr. Ilhan Mutlu, said Mrs. Ford has been transferred to a low-security section of the hospital, is responding well to therapy and "would not be a danger, as a result of her mental disorder, to herself or to the person or property of others."

The court record shows a similar letter written in December 1991 also recommended Mrs. Ford's release.

But Judge Lerner and Assistant State's Attorney Ronald M. Naditch, who prosecuted the case, said that planned release was never carried out.

Dr. Mutlu was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Judge Lerner said that under state law, Mrs. Ford may be released by the hospital's physicians without his approval. But he said he wants to hold the hearing anyway.

"I want to hear what these doctors have to say," he said.

Mr. Naditch said if the hearing produces evidence that the release is improper or unwarranted, he could ask Judge Lerner for an order that Mrs. Ford be re-evaluated.

Mr. Naditch said he will wait to hear from the physicians before deciding whether to try to block the release.

"Right now, we don't know what the story is, but we want to get the information from the doctors before we let her out on the street," he said.

Mrs. Ford was charged in the murder of her mother, Muriel Holland, whose body was found in a plastic trash bag in an alley behind her Cornhill Street home Jan. 20, 1982.

Police said it may have been there for up to five days before it was discovered.

She had been stabbed 40 times with a small knife and the furniture in the victim's bedroom had been chopped up, police said.

Mrs. Ford was committed after a four-day trial that ended abruptly when Mrs. Ford, who sat dazed throughout most of the proceedings, agreed to enter the insanity plea.

She had originally pleaded not guilty, but entered the insanity plea as jurors were deliberating her fate.

Jurors later said they were convinced of her guilt, but were stuck on the question of her sanity, which had been raised by the defense during the trial.

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