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Local

Rock Falls man committed to mental health facility

Bowman to remain in treatment up to 5 more years in wake of 2016 stabbing

ROCK FALLS – A mentally ill Rock Falls man who police say stabbed a woman more than 30 times with a pair of scissors in January 2016 will remain in the care of the state for up to 5 more years, a Whiteside County judge ruled today.

Should he be released from the rigidly structured care provided by the state in-patient treatment facility, Christian Bowman's inability to regulate his emotions and behavior – caused by a combination of his severe autism spectrum disorder and a mild intellectual deficit – would make him a danger to himself and others, State's Attorney Terry Costello successfully argued.

Bowman, 33, who is charged with felony and misdemeanor battery, was found unfit to stand trial in March 2017, a status that, because of his incurable mental health issues, will not change.

Tuesday's hearing was not to redetermine fitness, but rather, to determine if Bowman, who is represented by Sterling attorney James Mertes, is a serious threat to the public safety and so must remain involuntarily committed to a Department of Human Services treatment facility.

Because he ruled that Bowman must, then by law, Judge Stanley Steines was required to commit Bowman to a term equal to the most time he could have received at sentencing, in this case, 5 years, the maximum term for aggravated battery.

The status of Bowman's progress will continue to be reviewed periodically; he could be released sooner than 5 years, depending on the determination of the court in the wake of those reports.

The ruling was a blow to his brother, Jordan, 31, of Rock Falls, who is Christian's legal guardian and who had hoped to have his brother released to his care.

Christian Bowman was convicted in 2003 of aggravated battery after he punched a Rock Falls High School teacher's aide in the face, breaking her nose, reportedly because he thought she was talking about him, although it also might have been because others goaded him into hitting her, testimony revealed.

He was sentenced to 30 months' probation and 120 hours of community service.

In the 2016 incident, he stabbed the woman in what family members said was a dispute over a worn towel that she had wanted to throw away – a disruption to his routine at a time when other disruptions also may have been occurring. Her injuries were considered life-threatening.

Steines made his ruling after hearing testimony from two experts.

Forensic psychologist Steven Gaskill, testifying for Bowman, said he evaluated Bowman's risk to commit more violent acts as average to low, noting that there had been only two significantly violent acts in 13 years, and that Bowman does well when he has a set schedule and a familiar routine.

He also suggested that living with family likely would have a stabilizing effect on Bowman's behavior, although he also acknowledged that the stabbing victim also was a family member.

Kathryn Holt, a licensed clinical professional counselor who works at the Choate Developmental Center in Anna, the residential treatment facility where Bowman now lives, testified for the state.

Her opinion, based on her evaluation, was that Bowman's mental condition – autism combined with a lower IQ – leaves him with no internal means of self-control or self-regulation.

She acknowledged that there had been only the two attacks, but said "both of them were triggered by very minor things."

Holt, too, noted that, as with most people with severe autism, Bowman is doing very well with the highly regimented, daily structure Choate provides, but said his unpredictability means he needs to be with individuals who are trained to help him monitor his moods and de-escalate his aggressive behavior.

In other words, she said that, for the safety of himself and others, he needs "an in-patient facility that provides close supervision 24-7."

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