Double murder case puts state system for criminally insane in question

Anthony Montwheeler leaves a Malheur County Circuit Court hearing in Vale. (Malheur Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

At a hearing before the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board two years ago, Anthony Montwheeler explained why he should be set free despite 50 years to go under state control for kidnapping his first wife and their son.

He said he had calculated how to make himself seem insane.

“Either I can go to prison or I could … go to the hospital for six months, and all I got to do is make myself sound like I’m crazy. That’s the route I took,” Montwheeler testified.

He was freed, and within weeks charged with fresh crimes, including murder, kidnapping and assault. Now, Montwheeler is back at the Oregon State Hospital. The weekly Malheur Enterprise, based in Vale, has partnered with ProPublica, the national investigative reporting organization, to examine Oregon’s methods for dealing with the criminally insane. Here is reporter Jayme Fraser’s account of the case that triggered this investigation. The story:

He Said He Faked Mental Illness to Avoid Prison. Now, Accused in 2 Killings, He’s Sent Back to a State Hospital.

NOTE: Les Zaitz, editor of Salem Reporter, is also publisher of the Enterprise.