August 20, 2015

Judge rules Elgin teenager is unfit to stand trial

Sean D. Hamill

A Kane County judge on Thursday found 18-year-old Edward Edwardsen at least temporarily unfit to stand trial on charges that he committed a series of violent crimes against two people and several cats last year.

Citing evidence from the prosecution’s own psychologist, Judge Donald Hudson said that what he heard during a hearing in February convinced him that Edwardsen was too emotionally disturbed to assist his attorney in preparing a defense.

After hearing the prosecution’s psychologist, Tim Brown, concede that Edwardsen was an “emotionally disturbed person” who could still suffer from visual or auditory hallucinations, Hudson said to press Edwardsen to come to trial now “would be inviting a reversal” by the appellate court if he was found guilty.

Still, Hudson said, finding the Elgin resident unfit “is certainly not a free pass.”

Edwardsen, who is being held on $6 million bond, faces four counts of attempted murder, six counts of aggravated battery, four counts of armed violence, three counts of animal cruelty and one count of residential burglary.

The charges stem from three attacks that occurred within days of each other in early September.

The Jacobs High School senior is accused of injuring two people in separate attacks in Elgin and Carpentersville over Labor Day weekend. He also is accused of breaking into an Elgin home, partially disemboweling two cats and cutting another cat’s leg.

Hudson set a court date for May 31 to hear an evaluation from the state’s Department of Health Services about progress Edwardsen is making.

While being held in jail awaiting trial, Edwardsen already is taking the antipsychotic drug Halidol to help him combat the mental problems he endures – something Hudson pointed out used to be cause enough to find a defendant unfit for trial.

Dr. Gerard Girdaukas, the psychologist hired by Edwardsen’s family, had told Hudson last month that he thought Edwardsen could be made fit for trial in three to six months with proper treatment.

During the fitness hearing last month, Girdaukas said that Edwardsen was afflicted with severe schizophrenia. He experiences ongoing episodes of audio and visual hallucinations.

Girdaukas believes that with increased medication and counseling, most of Edwardsen’s delusions and hallucinations can be controlled.

But Dr. Tim Brown, director of the Kane County Diagnostic Center, disagrees.

Brown said Edwardsen might suffer from occasional hallucinations and delusions, but he understands what is happening to him and what all the elements of a jury trial are.

Those peculiar thoughts include a belief by Edwardsen that he once “lived in another time,” both doctors said.

Given the testimony last month, Assistant Kane County State’s Attorney Greg Sams said he wasn’t surprised by Hudson’s ruling and that it won’t affect the decision to go forward with the case.

“We’ll still prosecute,” he said. “Sometimes, these (questions of fitness) go on for years.”

Eight members of Edwardsen’s family showed up in court to offer him support, including his father, his mother and his grandmother, with whom Edwardsen lived for a while during his teens.

“I think the judge’s decision is the right decision,” grandmother Laverne Edwards said. “He was told he would get help (in jail), but they haven’t given him any help ….except for one Halidol pill a day.”

Edwardsen’s mother, Marcia Gehrig, told defense attorney David Camic she was happy with the judge’s decision. “At least now he’ll get some help,” she said.

Camic said that Edwardsen knew himself that he needed help before this occurred.

At one point last year, he tried to check himself into the Elgin Mental Health Center but was turned away, Camic said, because he was only 17.

Laverne Edwards said in the time that her grandson lived with her, she sometimes thought something might be wrong with him – but she wasn’t sure.

“I didn’t really notice it coming on,” she said. “There were little things, like, he’d say he was having problems with his head. But he jokes around so much, I’d ignored it.

“Now, when someone says anything to me (like that ), I listen and worry.

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