BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington man deemed insane when he killed his 14-month-old daughter in 2009 may be released from a state mental hospital to a halfway house this summer, his lawyer told a judge Wednesday.
Thomas Meece, 53, is doing "stunningly well" at the state facility in Elgin, according to defense lawyer Hal Jennings. He spoke at a hearing on Meece's request for conditional release.
Meece was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the beating death of Erika Meece at her Bloomington home. By law, Meece can be held in a treatment program for the term of his sentence on the murder charge, 100 years, or until doctors determine that he has sufficiently recovered from his mental illness.
Jennings told Judge Robert Freitag that staff at the mental hospital "have talked to me and Jeff about putting him in a halfway house in July."
The move that would require a court order will be discussed at a July 25 hearing.
Dressed in a gray suit and tie, Meece was escorted to court for the brief hearing by staff from the Department of Human Services. He smiled and waved to two people in the courtroom before leaving for the return trip to Elgin.
Assistant State's Attorney Jacob Harlow said he had no objection to continuing the hearing on Meece's petition "to see what DHS says between now and then."
After a hearing in March, State's Attorney Jason Chambers expressed concerns about Meece's release "especially a mere handful of years after the murder occurred."
Jennings said Wednesday that Meece would be required to follow a treatment plan after his placement in the halfway house, including monthly injections of psychotropic medications. The decision to allow Meece to be released from the halfway house would be based on DHS evaluations and recommendations.
According to DHS, the average length of stay in a state hospital is about four years for those deemed insane when a crime is committed.
Several recent McLean County cases have been resolved with findings of not guilty by reason of insanity, including the double homicide case against Brian Petersen. The 26-year-old was deemed insane when he fatally stabbed his parents in July.
Jason Hopkins, 36, is receiving mental health treatment after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the attempted murder of two men he stabbed during an August 2015 incident in downtown Bloomington. Hopkins' mother, Anita Jumper, also was transferred to a mental health facility after a doctor deemed her insane when she set fire to her apartment in February 2015.