Accused killer can't be prosecuted, will stay in mental facility

Shawn Guerrero

Shawn Guerrero

KINGMAN - Shawn Avery Guerrero is "gravely disabled" and a threat to himself and others, and must spend at least the next 365 days in a mental health facility, Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen ruled on Thursday.

Guerrero, who is accused of fatally shooting his father, burning down his house and killing a family dog on Sept. 27, 2008, on May 17 was found mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges including first-degree murder in the death of John Guerrero, 59.

The finding effectively dismissed the criminal charges because the state ran out of time for doctors to restore Guerrero to competency following a lengthy process.

The case then entered the civil arena, leaving Jantzen with three options: voluntary outpatient treatment, voluntary inpatient treatment or involuntary inpatient treatment. The judge was legally obligated to choose the least restrictive option based on testimony from Guerrero's doctors.

One of those doctors, psychiatrist Mark Feinstein, said the 31-year-old Guerrero suffers from schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

"He's a danger to others," said Feinstein, "and is acutely disabled."

Guerrero displays severe symptoms that include visual hallucinations, disorganized thinking, an inability to carry on a lucid conversation and memory issues, Feinstein said.

Feinstein laid out a laundry list of antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications that Guerrero takes, but he conceded some of the man's symptoms are difficult to treat.

In recommending involuntary inpatient treatment, Feinstein revealed that Guerrero has said he feels like he's "done his time and just wants to go home and move on with his life."

Feinstein, who works for Mohave Mental Health, said Guerrero has been treated at the facility since the early 2000s. He said Guerrero would resume using drugs and drinking alcohol if allowed to re-enter society - and would hurt or even kill anyone he perceived as a threat to him or his family.

"He really feels that he's served his time," said Feinstein.

Guerrero's doctors, however, say he can't meet his basic physical needs.

"He won't let us cut his hair," said Feinstein. "We have to tell him to take a shower."

There's no guarantee Guerrero will be released when his one-year involuntary commitment ends. Doctors must recommend whether to release him based on how he responds to treatment.

Because Mohave Mental Health isn't set up to care for long-term inpatients, it is likely Guerrero will be moved to the more secure Arizona State Hospital in Phoenix.

Following the hearing, Jace Zack, the chief deputy Mohave County Attorney, said the outcome was the best available given the circumstances.