A man accused of beating his pregnant wife to death with a piece of wood wants to be a free man.
David Messenger was found not guilty of manslaughter by reason of insanity in 2001. He was ordered to 20 years at Middletown's Connecticut Valley Hospital in a community treatment program.
His doctors said he's ready to enter the next phase of his treatment.
However, the victim's family asked the psychiatric review board not to release him into a community treatment program.
"The fact he's never apologized to anyone in the family," said Hannah Williamson, who is Heather Messenger's sister. "That's the one that gets me."
Williamson said David Messenger took joy out of all of their lives when he took the life of her sister 15 years ago.
"I really don't want to worry about who's knocking on my door," Williamson said. "There's not enough supervision involved to and with his access to millions of dollars, to make me comfortable with his early release."
In 1998, 42-year-old Heather Messenger, who was pregnant with the couple's second child, was murdered inside her Chaplin home.
Prosecutors said David Messenger beat her with a wooden post and a fire poker in front of their 5-year-old son.
Heather Messenger's brother, Dan Williamson, and his wife adopted her 5-year-old son, who still suffers from what he witnessed that day.
"He certainly knows what went on and remembers," Dan Williamson said. "We never tried to deny or stifle that memory. What we try to do is emphasize the positives and make sure we remember and honor Heather, and the first five years she raised him. And part of her is still in him."
Part of the family's concern is that if released, David Messenger would try to contact his now 20-year-old son at school out of state. His doctor said he knows that's not an option.
"He understands that his son is a man now and that he wasn't part of the better part of his upbringing," said Dr. Kevin Trueblood, who is David Messenger's psychiatrist. "There's no preoccupation that I see along those lines."
David Messenger's son is attending college without any inheritance money. The state victim advocate said since his father wasn't convicted, he was able to inherit more than $2 million as the sole beneficiary of his late wife's will.
"After Heather's death her community created a fund and from around the world people funded part of his education," Dan Williamson said.
Trueblood said David Messenger has been stable and cooperated with all treatment recommendations.
"Since his last hearing Mr. Messenger has remained clinically stable, cooperated with all treatment recommendations, and in full compliance with his memorandum of decision," Trueblood said.
His proposed release would be to a Hartford facility run by the center of human development, which provides 24 hours - 7 days per week staffing and monitored medication.
David Messenger would also be allowed to travel in Hartford, New Haven, and Middlesex counties unsupervised. Though he would have a curfew of 10 p.m., the attorney representing his son said that's not enough.
"The only assurance we have of Mr. Messenger not contacting my client is that Mr. Messenger says he won't and he has a history of surreptitious activities of having conflict reporting after he lies to his treatment providers over and over and over again," said John Klar, who is the family's attorney.
Heather Messenger's family said the move would allow David Messenger too much freedom with all that inheritance money, and they're concerned over the effect it would have on the couple's son.
"We don't believe this board has the power under the law to properly anticipate the future and the non physical impact on this child and that's what we're trying to change," Klar said. "And we hope you do."
Friday's hearing was continued while the review board waits for a few more victim statements, including from the couple's son. They expect to revisit the case in a few weeks and decide if he'll be moved from the hospital.
Heather Messenger's family has filed a lawsuit in federal court to give more power to victim's families instead of the patient.
State lawmakers told Eyewitness News it's something that needs to be done.
"We have to do what we did with the victims advocate office on criminal matters," said Tony Guglielmo, who is the Connecticut senator 35th District. "And we have to have somebody standing up for the victims and the folks in front of the psychiatric security review board, just like we do when they come in front of parole board hearings."
A proposal to change that inheritance law had been introduced last year, but lawmakers said it didn't get enough support to move on.
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