June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Accused Highland school trespasser pleads insanity

MEDINA — Medina Municipal Judge Dale Chase has ordered a mental health evaluation for a 24-year-old man who was charged with trespassing last month at Highland High School.

Justin M. Dixon, formerly of Canterbury Lane, was released from jail last week after entering a “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea to misdemeanor charges earlier this month.

Justin Dixon

Justin Dixon

Dixon had been in custody since Feb. 11 when Medina County sheriff’s deputies said he tried twice to enter Highland High School, prompting a shutdown of the school. No weapons were found and police don’t believe Dixon planned to harm anyone at the school.

Dixon suffers from schizophrenia, according to court documents filed by public defender Jocelyn Stefancin last week. Stefancin said Dixon had been to three mental health facilities prior to his arrest and suffered a psychotic episode Feb. 11 when he tried to enter Highland High.

According to school officials, Dixon first asked to set up an appointment with a guidance counselor. When he was turned away at the main office, he attempted to enter the building through a lower door and police were contacted. Dixon told deputies he was there to visit a girl he had met online, but deputies found his story didn’t hold up.

Court documents show Dixon was admitted to Heartland Behavioral Health Care on Feb. 12, the day after he was arrested. He remained there until Feb. 27, when he was released back to jail staff.

Dixon was responding well to medication and treatment at the center, according to a letter to the court from Gail Houk, executive director at Alternative Paths.

After he returned to the jail, his family pleaded with Chase to lower his $25,000 bond set following his arrest.

In a three-page handwritten letter, Dixon’s father, Timothy, pleads with the judge to lower the bond so the family can get Dixon medical help.

“He has accumulated $30,000 in mental health facilities bills since Jan. 4, 2014,” the elder Dixon wrote. “Please allow Justin to be dismissed so he can get the mental health assistance he needs.”

He also assured the judge that Dixon never meant to harm anyone at the school, but was suffering from a mental health problem.

“We do not believe Justin would harm himself or others,” he wrote the judge. “We have never had a problem with Justin. He is sick and needs help.”

At an arraignment March 4, Dixon entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Chase reduced his bond to $15,000, 10 percent, and Dixon’s father posted $1,525 bond March 5.

Conditions of his release require that he “take medications as they are prescribed and follow the directions of his physicians and mental health professionals.”

In her request for a plea of insanity, Dixon’s attorney wrote that Dixon would be staying with his parents in Rittman following a release from jail and that his parents will pursue treatment for him from a psychiatrist in Barberton.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.