Doctors disagree on Ard’s diagnosis

LIHU‘E — The decision to grant supervised release to a killer acquitted by reason of insanity will be decided July 5 in 5th Circuit Court.

The decision follows a Thursday hearing via video conference from Hawai‘i State Hospital, where the defendant Raymond Earl Ard was present with his treatment team. Ard was acquitted of the grisly 2005 murder of a retired physician and the attempted murder of his own step-son.

Judge Kathleen Watanabe, who presided over Ard’s trial, denied two previous requests for unescorted off-grounds privileges. The new motion is whether to grant conditional release from Kaneohe. He may be allowed supervised release to live on O‘ahu or with a sister in Oregon.

Ard, 47, stabbed Dr. Jon Kerns at his Waimea property on Feb. 27, 2005. He also attempted to kill his 14-year-old step-son, Richard Iwate. Ard was reportedly caring for Iwate after the boy’s mother left him.

Listening in by phone at the hearing was Kerns’ sister Helen Egy from California.

“Ard murdered my brother, and he also stabbed his then-step-son, and he threatened to kill my sister-in-law,” Egy said. “He is a murderer forever; I am a victim forever, and there is no curing that.”

Dr. Klebert Jones, who is Ard’s attending psychiatrist, said Ard is a model prisoner. He said Ard has not shown signs of the bipolar or schizoaffective disorders with which he had been diagnosed. Jones said it is his opinion that any psychosis was triggered by drug and alcohol addiction and not an underlying mental issue.

Jones said Ard was taken off medications by order of a previous physician, and that he concurred. Clinic staff say Ard does not present a danger to himself or others as long as he remains free of drugs and alcohol.

At the time of the trial, Ard claimed that doctors implanted devices in his head during a surgery. His acquittal for reasons of insanity was based on a diagnosis of a bipolar disorder with mood swings and violent behavior.

Jones expressed his concerns about the three-panel system the court uses to determine fitness for trial and mental capacity at the time of an alleged crime. He said the process often results in misdiagnosis without more than a medical record review and a brief interview.

Jones testified that he did not dispute the observation of the panel when it determined that a psychotic episode had taken place.

Members of the panel that conducted the interviews were in court and all three doctors disagreed with Jones.

Dianne Gerard, Ph.D., said Ard is in a full inter-episode recovery. The lack of psychotic symptoms are the result of a controlled environment, she said, which removes the stress of daily responsibilities and prohibits substance abuse.

Gerard disagreed that the diagnosis was wrong, and said that symptoms would return without care. She suggested heavy supervision and treatment in a more controlled release.

Dr. Olaf Gitter also disagreed with Jones, saying Ard definitely suffers from an affective disorder. As proof, he pointed to reports that Ard was hearing voices as early as age 12.

State Deputy Public Defender Stephanie Sato asked if there is a “window of warning” in which Ard would show signs that a psychotic break might be emerging. Gitter and the other doctors said yes, up to a couple of weeks.

Gitter and the other three say Ard is not a danger to himself or others in his current setting. They support conditional release in a structured setting that would include drug testing.

Dr. Gerald McKenna said Ard is a “ticking time bomb,” who should not be released until he accepts his diagnosis to better guarantee successful treatment.

McKenna said that long before the murder, as early as 1987, Ard sought treatment for anger issues and detailed symptoms that are classic bipolar.

Since the time of the stabbing, he said, Ard contends that his psychosis no longer exists and that it was the result of pesticide use on his taro field.

The fact that Ard is coming up for conditional release surprised McKenna, who said he is concerned that the severity of the crime is not reflected in hospital treatment records. He said for the hospital to doubt the diagnosis is “bizarre.”

County Deputy Prosecutor John Murphy asked several questions regarding the possible restoration of someone who commits a heinous crime.  

Ard was raised in California’s Central Valley and is a product of the California Youth Authority. The doctors said he was in trouble as a youth, and elsewhere around the country before coming to Hawai‘i around 2000.

Egy said she will fight against Ard’s conditional release at every hearing until she passes away. She said Hawai‘i is being ruined by people like Ard who move from the Mainland to live like bums on the tropical beaches.

“He was an angry man and a drug addict who took methamphetamine,” she said. “That is how he acted out that anger.”

Egy reflected on the extraordinary life of her brother.

After serving in the Marines during the Vietnam War, Kerns went to college and graduated from UCLA Medical School in 1971.

He was a general practitioner for the next 37 years, and at age 64 retired to Waimea with his wife in 2004.

Egy said Ard was living in a tent and the couple took pity on him during a heavy rain. They let him stay in a cottage on their property.

A couple of months later, Egy said, they were trying to get him to move out after discovering he was doing meth.

Egy said her sister-in-law, Claudia, described the murder to her. She said Ard cut his step-son’s throat and was throwing furniture through the windows.

Kerns entered the cottage and was stabbed 27 times all over his body.

He is buried at the Hanapepe Veterans Cemetery.

Egy said Ard has three ex-wives and two children who were not represented at the hearings because they have already stated that he is violent and a failure who could never hold a job.

“I would like to see that man not be released,” Egy said.

“He should be in a cage for the rest of his natural life, and for as long as my brother lay in the grave.”

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