LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- At a community meeting Thursday night in Louisville's California neighborhood, the fear, nerves and frustration were all palpable.
"We hardly go outside now," one mother, clutching her young son, told the panel that included a major from LMPD, Metro Council President David James (D-District 6), Rep. Attica Scott (D-Jefferson County) and Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Jefferson County).
The meeting happened just about a month after an unspeakable crime just blocks from where the meeting was held. On a Friday afternoon in early August, an 8-year-old was playing on an iPad outside a home when she was hit in the head with a shovel and raped, and LMPD said the attacker was 30-year-old Cane Madden.
"It has touched all across Metro," said Yolanda Walker, president of the California Neighborhood Leadership Council.
Walker has started a petition to make sure Madden isn't released from custody.
"Oh my God," she said, with the petition in her hands, "I know I've got 200-something signatures."
The repeated releases of Cane Madden, who is accused of violent attacks, has renewed concerns over a decades-old problem in Kentucky: mentally ill defendants who aren’t competent to stand trial but can’t by law remain hospitalized.
The petition is more than worthwhile for Walker, because there's a fear Madden will be released because of what's happened in the past.
As WDRB News first exposed weeks ago in a Sunday Edition, Madden has been charged with other serious crimes in the past, but each time, he's found too mentally incompetent to stand trial.
However, each time he's been found incompetent in the past, he hasn't been held in jail or a mental hospital for long. His charges have been dropped, and he's back on the streets. Neither prosecutors nor judges are necessarily to blame.
In the past, prosecutors have tried to have him involuntarily hospitalized to get treatment, but doctors have released him every time when he no longer meets the strict criteria of a state law known as 202A. That statute says no mentally ill person shall be involuntarily hospitalized unless he's a danger to himself or others, unless hospitalization is the least restrictive treatment and unless he can reasonably benefit from that treatment.
"This is a person who was going through a system designed and regulated by the people of Kentucky," McGarvey told the room during the community meeting. "How did this happen? And how can we make sure it never happens again?"
McGarvey is already working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers to close that dangerous gap in state law, a gap allowing some charged felons with mental illness, like Madden, to walk free time and time again.
"This is an issue that could affect anybody in any part of the state at any time," McGarvey said soberly.
Although he's already working diligently to craft change, he showed up at the community meeting with a request.
"I say this all the time: If 90% of life is showing up, 98% of your advocacy is showing up," he said. "You've got to raise your voice and be heard, and that's eventually how you get change."
He believes the room full of concerned neighbors, their voices, and their signatures on the new petition could help make the change happen when lawmakers return to Frankfort in January.
"We need to make sure that he is not released, and this crack is filled, so to speak, until we can get back in January and pave it over," he told the room.
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