14 years a mental patient, man now faces murder trial

CANTON, Ohio (AP) - A murder suspect has emerged from 14 years in a mental institution and now faces the prospect of a trial in the 1989 stabbing death of his mother.
Eric B. Skillern, 54, was committed to a mental institution after a judge dismissed a murder charge against him.
His caregivers now have decided that he is ready to re-enter society, putting him in position to go on trial.
A Stark County grand jury re-indicted Skillern on Thursday in the death of Laura A. Skillern, 65, who was stabbed June 30, 1989.
Her body was found two days later in the Alliance home she shared with her son.
Skillern had claimed his mother was an impostor who worked for the CIA. The two also had argued about what to eat for dinner, investigators said.
The victim was beaten and stabbed in the face. Her body was found by a relative and police, who had to crawl through a window because Skillern refused to let anyone enter.
Skillern pleaded innocent by reason of insanity Friday and was sent to the Stark County Jail to await a pretrial hearing July 30 before Stark County Common Pleas Court Judge John G. Haas.
It's uncommon for prosecutors to be faced with the prospect of re-indicting someone after a civil commitment, said Chryssa Hartnett, senior assistant prosecuting attorney for the Stark County prosecutor's office.
"When someone is civilly committed, they don't normally get released into the community," she said. "The folks who have been treating him have determined that apparently he is appropriate for placement into the community."
The prosecutor's office considered public safety and the seriousness of Skillern's alleged actions in deciding to re-indict.
"If it was a nonviolent offense, our decision would be different, but given the seriousness of this case, he has some issues that concern us," Hartnett said. "We feel we have a duty to re-indict him."
Prosecutors sought the indictment after learning last month that Skillern was about to be released from Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare in Northfield near Akron.
Skillern must have competency and sanity evaluations to determine if he is able to stand trial.
Hartnett said she anticipates Skillern will be deemed competent to stand trial this time.
If ruled competent, a judge or jury would determine if Skillern was sane when he allegedly killed his mother. If he's ruled insane, he probably would be recommitted to a mental hospital.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)