John Hinckley, would-be Reagan assassin, released from mental hospital after 35 years


John Hinckley Jr, the man who attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981, was released from a mental hospital on Saturday despite objections from Reagan’s family and his soon-to-be neighbours.

Hinckley successfully pleaded insanity after shooting Mr Reagan in the chest and wounding three others outside the Washington Hilton hotel, in an act inspired by his obsession with Jodie Foster, the actress.

He was sent to St Elizabeth’s psychiatric hospital in the Southeastern corner of Washington where he would remain for 35 years as a patient, and a subject of public fascination.

In August, a judge ruled that Hinckley, now 61, no longer posed a threat to the public or to himself, drawing the ire of one of Reagan’s daughters, and setting the course for his release on Saturday.

“Forgiving someone in your heart doesn’t mean that you let them loose in Virginia to pursue whatever dark agendas they may still hold dear,” Patti Davis, the third of Reagan’s four surviving children, wrote after the ruling.

An employee of St Elizabeth’s confirmed that the institution’s most high-profile patient had been released.

“John is gone, sir. He’s gone,” she said.

Hinckley was to immediately relocate from one secluded locale to another, moving in with his elderly mother to Kingsmill, a gated community in the historic city of Williamsburg, Virginia.

Some six miles from the stagecoaches and the tricorne hatted-reenactors of Colonial Willaimsburg, and not far from the Busch Gardens amusement park, Mr Hinckley will settle into a home on the 13th hole of a finely manicured golf course.

His room has already been prepared, decorated with paintings of houses and cats that he created while at St Elizabeth’s, and furnished with a king size bed and television.

Some residents of the resort community have protested ahead of their newest neighbour’s arrival. One, Joe Mann, told the Washington Post: It’s not a matter of forgiveness but a matter of security.

Whatever their objections, if all goes to plan Hinckley will be a full fledged member of society. 

He has been ordered to work or volunteer at least three days a week – he previously volunteered at a church and in the library and cafeteria of a mental hospital – and obtained his driver’s license in 2011.  

According to the conditions of his release, he can drive up to 30 miles unsupervised, or 50 if accompanied by his mother. His lawyer says he will soon register to vote.

Hinckley had already been allowed to visit his mother for days at a time before being checked back into St Elizabeth’s. 

He will still have to see his doctors regularly and continue with his therapy, but barring a few restrictions on his activities will otherwise be a free man.

He will still have to see his doctors regularly and continue with his therapy, but barring a few restrictions on his activities will otherwise be a free man.

Ms Davis, who is 63 and lives in California, where she was at the time of the assassination attempt, believes Hinckley has feigned remorse, and remains a danger to society.

If John Hinckley is haunted by anything, I think it’s that he didn’t succeed in his mission to assassinate the president, she wrote after the ruling that led to his release.

In the 35 years since he fired a revolver six times at Reagan and his entourage, Hinckley has largely faded into obscurity only to emerge occasionally in pop culture or public discourse.

Amid the public outcry that followed the not guilty verdict, Congress passed a law making it more difficult to proceed with an insanity plea, and three states eliminated the defence altogether.

Hinckley, who considers himself an artist and had aspired to be a professional songwriter prior to his arrest, has been portrayed in Assassins, the 1990 musical by Stephen Sondheim, and depicted in Calf, the 2015 novel.

His obsession with Foster, which came about after he saw the film Taxi Driver, has served as the inspiration for multiple songs- recast as a tale of unrequited love.

For 22 years at St Elizabeth’s he dated Leslie deVeau, the wealthy housewife who notoriously shot and killed her 10-year-old daughter in 1982.

He also exchanged letters with Ted Bundy, the serial killer and rapist, and reached out to Charles Manson while in the mental institution.

Barry Levine, Hinckley’s lawyer, has assured the residents of Kingsmill, the gated community, that they have nothing to fear.

Update: On Saturday afternoon, Hinckley arrived without incident at his mother’s home.

News Source TelegraphNews

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