News Article Details

Judge: Mentally ill woman not ready to be released from treatment

Pantagraph - 2/27/2019

Feb. 26-- Feb. 26--BLOOMINGTON -- A Bloomington woman said Monday that she is ready to be released from a mental health facility where she has been housed since her 2015 arrest on aggravated arson charges.

Anita Jumper, 59, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2017 on charges accusing her of setting fire to her apartment. She may be held for up to 23 years -- the maximum sentence she faced if convicted of arson.

Jumper told Judge Scott Drazewski it's been nine months since she was involved in a rule violation at McFarland Mental Health Center in Springfield. She said she's been taking her medicine as ordered.

Drazewski acknowledged that Jumper has made progress. but "there's still a long way to go."

Jumper's demeanor was calm Monday, in comparison to past hearings marked by her removal from the courtroom after she disrupted proceedings, the judge noted.

Jumper explained the value of taking her medications.

"They keep me on an even keel and I function on a normal level," Jumper said.

If released, Jumper said she would live with a family member in Bloomington and attend counseling and mental health appointments.

Jumper's stability became shaky when she was asked by public defender Rachelle Roth to explain what happened the night of the fire.

"I started the fire as a call for help," as a way to avoid people who were "passing weapons in the hallways and threatening to kill me and my children."

She said she regretted the fire. "If I could change it, I would," she said.

First Assistant State's Attorney Brad Rigdon pointed to reports from McFarland staff and a psychiatrist who evaluated Jumper and recommended continued treatment.

"Now is not the time for the court to grant the conditional release as requested," said Rigdon.

The February 2015 arson charges alleged Jumper set fire to the apartment in the 800 block of West Washington Street while her son, Jason Hopkins, was asleep and other residents of the multiple-unit building were home. Residents reported smelling smoke and hearing Jumper banging on their door alerting them to the fire.

Jumper's son also resides in a state mental health facility. After his mother's arrest, he was charged with attempted murder in the 2015 stabbing of two men in downtown Bloomington. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

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

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(c)2019 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.)

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