Fate of St. Johnsbury attack suspect currently receiving treatment at the Retreat is still unknown

Saturday February 23, 2013

ST. JOHNSBURY -- It was a surprise attack that nearly killed a repairman. But the man accused won’t spend a day in jail. So, what is his fate?

Evan Rapoza will remain at an unsecured facility until a judge can determine where he will receive the best treatment.

It was learned a few weeks ago the state released the St. Johnsbury man from a secure mental health treatment center two months ago by accident. Now, prosecutors and defense lawyers are trying to determine where he will receive the best treatment.

"When he’s not being controlled by psychiatric elements, he is very mild mannered, very peaceful," said Dr. Robert Linder, a psychiatrist.

But experts say it was during a hallucination that Rapoza, 23, allegedly attacked Mike Kuligoski inside a St. Johnsbury apartment house two years ago, leaving the repairman permanently disabled. Rapoza was found insane and charges of attempted murder were dropped.

"He had no idea this type of harm would occur," Linder said.

Rapoza has been receiving treatment at the Brattleboro Retreat. But now the state wants to release him from the locked facility to a less secure facility in Brattleboro called Meadow View Recovery Residence, despite becoming resistant to treatment at the Retreat.

"They kind of felt they had done what they could for him, and they weren’t aggressively seeking to make any progress on his case," Linder said. "While there is a risk, there is enough benefit available in this placement to improve him and reduce the risk."

Linder has examined Rapoza a number of times and says Rapoza still hears voices in his head, but he no longer has homicidal thoughts. Instead, he talks about becoming a rock star. That has the psychiatrist concerned because it shows he is not responding to the medication as expected.

"There’s never going to be a time in the near future where he is risk-free. It’s a situation that can go bad very quickly, so it’s a situation that has to be paid a lot of attention to," Linder said.

While at Meadow View, Rapoza will be allowed to leave the premises, but must be supervised. He will also continue to receive extensive treatment to help integrate him back into society.

"He’s expected to participate in programming and they may look like groups, groups going to groups, participate in therapy session, doing chores," said Emily Megas-Russell of Meadow View Recovery Residence.

Meadow View says most patients stay an average of eight months, but residents can stay as long as two years. So it is unclear where Rapoza will go then. But according to testimony Tuesday, Rapoza reportedly does not want to return to the Northeast Kingdom because of the incident. He also wants to change his name as part of a fresh start.

Two weeks ago, the judge was furious that Rapoza had been released from the Retreat without the court’s permission. That came up Tuesday. Judge Mary Teachout said she will schedule a hearing with the Department of Mental Health so they can explain what happened. In an interview with WCAX News two weeks ago the department admitted to the mistake and promised an investigation. Attempts to find out if there was any fallout were unsuccessful.


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