Family tried to get Richland slaying suspect committed

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The family of a mentally ill man accused of fatally stabbing his grandmother tried at least twice before her death to have him committed but did not succeed, his attorney said Friday.

Levi Staver, 27, of Richland, stabbed 76-year-old Constance Johnston in the back while she and her husband, David, ate breakfast in their Richland home Feb. 19, according to court paperwork. Ms. Johnston died a short while later, despite efforts by her husband and medics to save her.

County police quoted Mr. Staver in a criminal complaint as saying after his grandmother’s death that he was employed by “the Angelic Army under the direction of the archangel Michael,” who gave him a nonverbal directive to “kill the witch.”

Police also wrote that Mr. Staver, who waived his preliminary hearing Friday, told them “if the archangel wants me to do something, I just do it.”

Mr. Staver was arrested the day of his grandmother’s death and sent to Torrance State Hospital on the recommendation of those working in the Allegheny County Jail’s behavior clinic. He remained in the hospital until about a week ago, said his attorney, Paul Iannetti.

Mr. Iannetti said his client has been diagnosed with both schizophrenia and autism and that his family asked doctors at least twice before the killing to help them have him committed. The family, he said, “was told each time that he wasn’t a danger to himself or others.”

“It was just a shame because he was not obtaining the treatment the family thought was most appropriate,” Mr. Iannetti said. “The underlying issue is somebody can’t be committed unless they’re a danger to themselves or others and it is such a nebulous standard that doctors often err on the side of not committing.”

Mr. Staver is next scheduled to appear in court for formal arraignment Jan. 9.

“The biggest thing to remember,” Mr. Iannetti said, “is that the family has been torn apart. They lost two people in one day.”

First Published December 6, 2013 11:34 AM


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