West Virginia State Police say that this past Feb. 4, Banner C. Catlett stole a rifle from his mother and used it to kill Andrew Mason, a Tomahawk, W.Va. man who'd been trying to help the former mental patient with his problems.
This past Saturday morning, after authorities of the William R. Sharpe Jr. mental hospital gave him a pass to walk the unfenced grounds, Catlett escaped. We agree with Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely, who says allowing Catlett a pass prior to his Sept. 23 trial in the slaying was "ridiculous." Not only that, but the incident now makes it less likely that those with mental problems will get hospital time instead of jail time.
Ann Garcelon, a spokeswoman for the hospital, defended the institution's decision to grant Catlett a pass by saying that "Sharpe is a hospital and not a prison..." Garcelon also said that Catlett was evaluated by Sharpe's clinical director and a psychiatrist there prior to getting the pass.