CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kanawha County man who spent 14 years in a mental facility after assaulting a state trooper has been approved for release to a community home.
Pinch resident Ronnie Harper was 45 when he was arrested after attacking and trying to disarm Trooper George Kennedy at the Elkview McDonalds in January 1999. Harper was charged with malicious wounding in the incident that injured the trooper.
Kennedy responded to the restaurant after Harper arrived there wearing a jacket with "FBI" handwritten on it and showing a gun to patrons. When the trooper arrived, Harper fought with him and tried to take his weapon.
After Harper's arrest, police found a large amount of writing he had done about the devil, the end of the world and a hatred of police.
Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky ordered Harper to spend up to 15 years at Sharpe Hospital in Weston after doctors and his attorney said the man was suffering from severe mental illness.
But on Thursday, Assistant Prosecutor Charles Miller agreed that physicians have determined Harper has improved and should be released.
He was being held at a transitional facility called Mimosa Manor, and the judge agreed with a plan to move him to a community group home in Huntington.
"That recommendation seems to be based on solid evidence and information as to his progress," Miller told the judge.
"It seems this is in the best interests of public welfare, justice and the defendant," Stucky said. "He is to continue on his plan of medication and the director of Prestera Center is specifically charged with monitoring his status and progress."
Stucky will continue to receive an annual report on Harper.
Harper turned at grinned at family members seated behind him.
Miller said to him as he was leaving, "Stay out of trouble.""I'm never going to do that again," Harper replied.