BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington man found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2009 death of his daughter has been given preliminary approval for his conditional release to a halfway house.

Thomas Meece, 56, was in court Friday for a hearing on his petition to be transferred from Elgin Mental Health Center to a halfway house in Springfield.

Dressed in a gray suit and white shirt, Meece told Judge Robert Freitag that he understood the delay of about four weeks in his exit from the state psychiatric hospital due to administrative paperwork.

The finding that Meece was insane at the time he inflicted the fatal head injuries that killed 14-month-old Erika Meece was made in September 2010, about a year after police were called to the 600 block of South Madison Street, Bloomington, for reports of a man swinging a baseball bat.

Defense lawyer Hal Jennings said Friday that Meece "has been conditionally accepted" for the downstate facility where he will continue to receive mental health treatment. Meece may eventually file a petition to be released to the community, said Jennings. 

The judge took no action on Jennings' request to allow Meece to attend support group meetings at a church in Elgin. The lawyer said staff at the Elgin hospital required a court order before Meece could leave the campus even though he received permission to be off campus for other reasons in the past.

Assistant State's Attorney Jacob Harlow said he would research the meeting issue to determine if the court had authority to consider such a request.

A June 28 hearing is set to address Meece's release to Springfield.

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Contact Edith Brady-Lunny at (309) 820-3276. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_blunny

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