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Untitled Document
JW abusers in the news
Murderer attends meetings
Greist to remain in hospital
R. JONATHAN TULEYA , Staff Writer 07/08/2004
Richard L. Greist has been ordered to remain at Norristown State Hospital and find a new doctor because of "ineffective treatment," according to a ruling delivered by Common Pleas Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez.

Greist is the East Coventry man who stabbed his pregnant wife to death and butchered his unborn child in May 1978. Two years later at trial, former Judge Thomas A. Pitt Jr. declared him not guilty by reason of insanity.

"Due to Greist's ineffective treatment he continues to lack insight into the murder and mutilation of his wife and unborn son," Sanchez wrote in the order, released on Tuesday.

Greist's physicians -- including psychotherapist Dr. Bernard Cowitz -- testified at his annual review in April that the defendant had progressed with his treatment enough to be relocated to a supervised facility, called a Community Residential Rehabilitation Center.

Sanchez denied that request, stating, "the defendant is to remain committed to Norristown State hospital until the time of his 2005 annual review."

The judge's order criticized Cowitz for failing to comply with an order to develop a treatment plan with Norristown State Hospital and for not implementing an "intensive, insight-oriented therapy as detailed in Dr. (William) O'Brien's 2002 recommendations," Sanchez wrote.

O'Brien had served as an expert witness for the commonwealth. Dr. Barbara Ziv has since taken over.

She testified during the most recent hearing that she disagreed with Greist's course of treatment and that placing Greist in a less-restrictive environment could trigger a psychotic relapse.

Greist's attorney, Marita Malloy Hutchinson, said her client was let down by the news when informed on Tuesday.

"I'm disappointed the court relied on a hired "expert" as opposed to the treating doctor who sees him and knows him so well," Hutchinson said. "We were disappointed that the court chastised Dr. Cowitz rather than focus on the basis of the opinion."

Assistant District Attorney Peter Hobart called Sanchez's decision the "safest course of action."

"Based on what my experts are telling me ..I can't, in good conscience, release somebody when my experts are telling me he's not ready," Hobart said. "If our experts would tell us that he is safe to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, we would have no alternative but to agree to go along with the recommendations."

Sanchez's order also established the conditions for Greist's trips off the Norristown State Hospital grounds.

Greist is permitted to attend church services at the West Norristown Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses every Sunday for three hours.

He is also allowed to attend "planned outings" four times per year if it is approved by the hospital and written plans are given to the district attorney's office and the local police departments where he will be traveling no less than three days before the outing.

The plans submitted must list the type of activity Greist will attend, the locations, date and time and a list of everyone who will be attending.

Greist is not permitted to leave the hospital for more than 12 hours at a time and he is forbidden from staying away from the hospital overnight.

During the defendant's trial, authorities said Greist had acted in a psychotic rage, killed his wife and cut the couple's fetus from her womb and mutilated it. Then he attacked his grandmother and 6-year-old daughter with a knife.

Later he told psychiatrists he believed he had been possessed by Satan.

Greist has been committed to Norristown hospital for 26 years. He has not required medication for 20 years, Hutchinson said.

At a Community Residential Rehabilitation Center, Greist would have lived under 24-hour supervision with other patients. Residents have varying degrees of freedom, based on their personal case history. Breaking facility rules would result in an immediate return to Norristown, Hutchinson said.

Greist's progress is reviewed annually.

Hutchinson can request a review hearing regarding Sanchez's decision.

¬©Daily Local News 2004

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