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Judge: Ax murderer not responsible for developer’s death (UPDATE)

Richard Wilson (left) has a conversation with defense attorney Michael Steinle on Thursday at the Waukesha County Courthouse. Wilson pleaded guilty to murdering his grandfather, developer Ron Siepmann, Thursday morning but was found not guilty because of his mental illness. (Staff photos by Kevin Harnack)

A Waukesha County Circuit Court judge Thursday found Richard Wilson not guilty by reason of mental defect or disease in the ax murder of a Pewaukee developer.

Judge William Domina sentenced Wilson, 17, to a lifetime of supervision by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services. Wilson was charged with murdering his grandfather, Richard Siepmann, May 8 at Siepmann’s home in Merton.
Immediately prior to the ruling Thursday, a lucid and alert Wilson pleaded guilty to the pending first-degree intentional homicide charge.

Domina, as well as the defense and prosecution, than determined Wilson, at the time of the murder, did not understand what he was doing.

Wilson gave mostly one-word replies to Domina about understanding the charges and the court proceedings. Wilson did not express remorse for the murder.

A statement released by the Siepmann family on Friday said the resolution of the case “provided no further comfort, but only the feeling of more loss.”

Siepmann, according to the complaint, sustained head injuries and defensive wounds to his hand, apparently from several blows from an ax, which was found near the body.

Wilson was with other family members on the property of Siepmann’s home when Martha Wilson , Richard Wilson’s mother, discovered Siepmann’s body, according to the complaint.

According to the criminal complaint, Martha Wilson said her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia in November 2010.

Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge William Domina listens as Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel makes his case during a hearing held for accused murder Richard Wilson on Thursday.

Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel said Wilson had not been taking his medication near the time of the murder. He said that contributed to agreeing to the insanity plea.

“Had there been any piece along the way that didn’t fit,” Schimel said following the ruling, “then we would have been in a different position today.”

He said his office could not establish a motive beyond the mental disease.

Domina said two independent psychiatric evaluations indicated that, absent medication, Wilson is unable to comprehend reality. Domina said that led to his determination that institutional care was the best course of action for Wilson.

Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge William Domina listens as Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel makes his case during a hearing held for accused murder Richard Wilson on Thursday.

Despite Wilson’s improvement since taking daily doses of Abilfy, a prescription drug to combat schizophrenia, in June, Domina ruled Wilson is a long-term “danger to himself and others” and is in need of mental supervision.

“I have no doubt that you, today, see things differently,” Domina told Wilson, “as a result of the medical treatment in place.”

Wilson acknowledged that his improved focus is a result of the medication.

Wilson’s attorney, Michael Steinle, of Terschan, Steinle & Ness SC, Elm Grove, was not available for comment after the hearing.

Schimel said, based on the facts of the case, the defense probably would have met its burden of proof that Wilson was mentally ill at the time of the murder.

“Competency is here and now,” Schimel said. “How is the person right at this moment? Insanity always goes back to the moment when the person was committing the offense. That’s static.”

On June 2, Domina suspended the murder case against Wilson on the grounds he was unable to understand the charges against him. Since then, Wilson has been held at the Mendota Mental Health Institution for treatment.

But on Aug. 31, Domina reinstated the proceedings after a mental health evaluation determined medication had restored Wilson’s competency to the point that he was capable of understanding the severity of the charges.

Wilson on Sept. 19 pleaded not guilty by reason of mental defect or disease, and Domina ordered an independent mental health evaluation by Dr. Deborah L. Collins, director of the Wisconsin Forensic Unit.

“We use Dr. Collins pretty regularly,” Schimel said. “She does not lightly conclude that someone is not mentally responsible for their actions.”

Statute lets Wilson petition for release in six months, but Schimel said he doesn’t expect there would be consideration for release in the near future, given the nature of the crime.

“I don’t imagine he would get any support from anyone in the medical field to petition that quickly,” Schimel said. “There is the potential that many years down the road, the state could be comfortable with him reaching that kind of stability.”

Wilson Family Statement (PDF)

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