Man gets 18 years for stabbing

Prosecutor says defendant, who has history of mental illness, stole purse to buy cocaine

January 23, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,Sun reporter

A caseworker at the North Baltimore Center last saw George T. Dyson on a Thursday morning in May. Dyson, a diabetic and convicted robber with a history of mental illness, took his medications there, and a nurse checked his blood sugar and blood pressure every day.

When he didn't show up at the mental health treatment facility the next day, caseworkers tried to locate him at home and then twice at his job at Wendy's. On Sunday, they reported him missing to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the agency responsible for him.

It was too late for Karen Harris.

Dyson pleaded guilty yesterday in Baltimore Circuit Court to attempted first-degree murder for stabbing Harris, 57, as she carried her groceries in the 100 block of E. 26th St. in Charles Village. The attacked occurred May 27, the Sunday the caseworker reported Dyson missing.

Judge Robert B. Kershaw sentenced Dyson, 48, to 50 years in prison, suspending all but 18 years, for attempted first-degree murder and a concurrent 15 years for armed robbery. Harris, who suffered a collapsed lung in the attack, was in the courtroom but chose not to speak.

Assistant State's Attorney Nancy Olin said Dyson taped two steak knives together, stabbed Harris multiple times and stole her purse to get money for crack cocaine. Two witnesses chased and caught Dyson and held him on the ground until police arrived.

Dyson's attorney, assistant public defender Nicholas Panteleakis, accused the courts and the state yesterday of losing track of Dyson after he was found guilty but not criminally responsible for robbing a Payless shoe store while armed with a box cutter in 2003.

Dyson was committed to a state psychiatric institution, the Walter P. Carter Center, in 2003, said Larry Fitch, director of forensic services for the Mental Hygiene Administration, a division of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. One doctor described him as "dangerous to others."

The following year, based upon a recommendation from mental health experts, Circuit Judge Lynn K. Stewart signed an order for his release, provided that he abide by a long list of conditions.

Dyson was supposed to live in supervised housing, take his medications, receive mental health services, attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings and submit to periodic blood and drug testing for at least five years, according to Fitch.

It was the health department's responsibility to monitor him and about 600 other people on "conditional release" from psychiatric institutions.

Panteleakis said his client never should have been released. Dyson "says he was only taking his medications once a day, instead of three, and he was spending $120 a day on crack and drinking two to three 40s of beer," he said. "He was living shelter to shelter. They lost track of him; they claim they didn't. But if they didn't, then how was he using crack and never got caught?"

In an interview, Fitch described the caseworker's efforts to locate Dyson after he failed to show up as "aggressive" and the daily visits required of him as "unusual."

Fitch said Dyson moved often. He had lived in three assisted-living facilities - in Baltimore, Pikesville and Randallstown - and was living independently at the time of the attack on Harris. But he said he was not homeless.

Fitch said he could not find any results from a drug test in Dyson's state file, but that did not necessarily mean that none had been performed. He said the state's monitoring of mentally ill people released from psychiatric facilities by the courts is "tight."

"Of the 600 people on conditional release, their rearrest rate is lower than Marylanders in general," he said. " ... Here's someone who has reoffended, and that's extraordinarily rare. Now 20 percent, or more than 100, are rehospitalized during the year. Their illnesses do wax and wane, and that shows that we're watching them."

Olin had asked for a 30-year sentence for Dyson. "This is his third robbery with a deadly weapon, and he does pose a great, great danger," Olin told Kershaw. "He can receive medication, and he chose not to take it. I asked for 30 years straight in an attempt to protect society."

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

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