Judge rules North Texas man can be moved from Kerrville facility to a private group home due to mental improvements
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Gainesville man who was found not guilty by reason of insanity 11 years ago in the strangulation death of his toddler nephew in Waco can be moved to a less-restrictive mental facility because of improvements in his mental condition, a judge ruled Friday.
Judge Thomas West of Waco’s 19th State District Court approved recommendations from a team of doctors at the Kerrville State Hospital that Alfred Kilinus Cornelius, 33, be moved from the Kerrville facility to a private group home in Seguin called Bluebonnet Hills.
While Prosecutor Susan Shafer expressed concerns with the recommendation, under the law, the judge basically was left with no other choice. However, he placed Cornelius under a number of restrictions not recommended by the state facility’s doctors and treatment team. West ordered Cornelius to be fitted with a GPS ankle monitor, to abide by a 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew and to be transported only by officials from the Kerrville facility or the one in Seguin.
The Code of Criminal Procedure says “the court shall modify the commitment order to direct outpatient or community-based treatment and supervision if at the hearing the acquitted person establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that treatment and supervision can be safely and effectively provided as outpatient or community-based treatment and supervision.”
During a 60-minute hearing held via teleconference Friday, members of Cornelius’ treatment team at the Kerrville facility told the judge that Cornelius, after a few setbacks in his treatment a few years ago, has embraced his treatment and accepted the fact that he has a lifelong illness that requires medication.
The doctors said Cornelius is taking both an oral and injectable form of psychoactive medication. The injectable form, they said, is easier to monitor through blood tests and ensures he is getting the medication he needs.
Cornelius, who has been diagnosed with severe psychotic bipolar disorder, antisocial personality disorder and polysubstance dependence, was charged with capital murder in the August 2009 asphyxiation death of his 15-month-old nephew, Kamari Jae Edwards, at the former Village Apartments, 1100 N. Sixth St. in Waco.
Cornelius, who had been hospitalized at least six times for mental issues before he killed the boy, admitted strangling his nephew. He told police “the devil was getting to him” and that he “just had to end it,” according to reports.
After he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2011, Cornelius was sent to the North Texas State Hospital in Vernon, a maximum-security mental facility. As he improved with treatment, he was transferred to the state hospital in Kerrville, an intermediate-security facility.
The law requires mental patients who have run afoul of the law and who have been declared incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity to be placed in the least-restrictive environment deemed appropriate for their condition.
Cornelius, who was calm and well-spoken, testified that he has learned that he can get better through treatment and pledged to stay on his medication.
“I realize I have an illness,” he said. “I realize it every day. I realize what I need to do. I know I need medication. I like to think I’m a mental illness advocate. I attend eight classes a week. I am aware of what I need to stay away from. I want to make a difference in a positive way and not be the person who committed that horrible crime in 2009.”
Texas Health and Human Services records show that Cornelius began displaying behavioral problems in the fifth grade, with his behavior becoming more serious when he was 13. He was hospitalized at least four times in his early teens and was admitted to the Waco Center for Youth.
Both his parents were alcoholics and he was physically and sexually abused by a relative at a young age. He was placed in foster care when he was 4 and was adopted at age 6, according to records filed in his case.
Cornelius became aggressive toward his adoptive mother and other family members, including pouring bleach into drinks and putting ground glass in sugar, the records show.
Records show Cornelius escaped from the Kerrville facility twice in 2018, but doctors note he began to stabilize and now seems ready to be transferred to the less-restrictive facility, an eight-bed group home staffed 24 hours a day.
Cornelius’ attorney, Walter M. Reaves Jr., said he thinks Cornelius has improved vastly with the treatment he has received.
“He has been in the state hospital system for 13 years and has made a lot of progress, and everybody involved thinks he is ready for transfer to a less-restrictive facility,” Reaves said. “This is something that has been reviewed by multiple people and treatment committees and it has to be approved by the state hospital as well as the facility where he is going. So there have been a lot of checks and balances involved.”
Reaves said there is no comparison to Cornelius’ behavior now and the way he was shortly after his arrest.
“They are not even the same two people,” he said. “It is not even close. If you were to run into him on the street and just talk to him, you would have no idea that he has as serious mental health issues as he has.”
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