News Article Details

He decapitated his wife 29 years ago, but said he's no longer mentally ill. A court disagreed.

Dayton Daily News - 4/24/2019

April 24-- Apr. 24--A man who committed one of Butler County's most notorious crimes but was found not guilty by reason of insanity will continue his required court control 29 years after decapitating his wife.

Raymond Tanner, 62, appealed a Butler County Common Pleas Court decision requiring him to seek counseling and have a review of his conditional release every two years, citing two doctors testified he is no longer mentally ill. That appeal was denied earlier this month.

On Valentine's Day 1990, Tanner, a steakhouse meat cutter, killed his wife after an argument in their Fairfield home and sawed off her head. He put the head on their bed, then walked to the police station in bloody clothes and admitted to the slaying, according to news reports and court records.

In June 1990, Tanner was found criminally insane and to have been suffering from acute schizophrenia at the time of his wife's death. He was having paranoid delusions that rendered him incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, according to doctors who did psychological evaluations shortly after the killing.

Tanner was released from a mental health facility in 1996, six years after he killed 21-year-old Maria Tanner.

After being housed in a mental facility, Tanner was released with conditional provisions that have continued from 1996 to this year. Specifically, he is required to have eight counseling sessions per year at a Dayton facility, as well as undergo two random drug screens per year. Over the years, those reporting requirements have decreased, but Tanner has remained under court control, according to court records

In March 2018, county common pleas Judge Jennifer McElfresh held a conditional release hearing during which two psychologists testified.

Dr. Myron Fridman testified as the designated forensic monitor, as he had evaluated Tanner five times in 10 years. Prior to his November 2017 report, Fridman had consistently concluded that Tanner was a mentally ill person subject to court order, according to court records.

Fridman said numerous doctors have been unable to reach an agreement on a diagnosis for Tanner's mental illness but noted that within six months after murdering his wife, he showed no signs of mental illness, and as of April 1991, was no longer taking psychiatric medication.

Tanner originally was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, Fridman said. But subsequent diagnoses have included major depressive disorder, single episode severe with psychotic features and a brief psychotic reaction.

A "series of significant life stressors" that occurred in Tanner's life around the time of his wife's murder, including the sudden death of his infant daughter, caused him to become depressed, the doctor said.

Fridman noted data suggests that "at least 60 percent" of individuals with Tanner's diagnosis can be expected to have a "second episode." But, looking at the totality of Tanner's life now and history, which also has included stress in his life without a episode, Fridman said he believed Tanner was no longer mentally ill as defined by Ohio law.

In the same hearing, Dr. Jenny O'Donnell testified she, too, had evaluated Tanner in 2015 and concluded he was no longer a mentally ill person.

O'Donnell was unable to offer a diagnosis as to Tanner's original mental illness, but disagreed with Fridman's diagnosis that Tanner's mental illness was a depressive disorder and a single episode.

After the hearing, McElfresh ordered Tanner to remain under court control. Tanner's attorney Melynda Cook Howard appealed the decision to the 12th District Court of Appeals.

Earlier this month, the appeals court upheld the trial court's decision.

In the decision, the appellate judges noted the trial court stated that it "struggled greatly" with whether Tanner could be in remission from a disease the experts struggled to diagnose. And that both doctors did not believe Tanner would seek treatment on his own if necessary.

"Tanner currently represents a substantial risk of physical harm to others," Appellate Judge Robert Hendrickson wrote in the opinion. "In reaching this conclusion, the court noted that for the first 33 years of his life, Tanner had not experienced any symptoms of mental illness. Yet, in 1990, after a rapid onset of symptoms, Tanner committed a brutal crime and murdered his wife.

"Given the quickness with which the psychotic symptoms appeared, the fact that there exists at least 60 percent chance of another episode occurring during Tanner's lifetime, Tanner's lack of insight into his illness and his disdain for mental health treatment, there was evidence to support the trial court's finding that Tanner represents substantial risk of harm to others."

Tanner's next court control review is set for March 2020.

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(c)2019 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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