More than a decade ago, Harvey Derrick Glanton crushed the skull of Daniel B. Balbaugh, believing the man he had killed was a chicken.
A psychologist determined Glanton was psychotic and delusional at the time, and Glanton was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
On Tuesday, 13 years and two months after Glanton bludgeoned Balbaugh 20 times in the head with a cast-iron pot lid, he was released from supervision.
Noting the social and psychiatric progress that Glanton was said to have made, Chesterfield County Circuit Judge Herbert C. Gill Jr. set Glanton free from his oversight and the supervision of mental health workers with the Chesterfield County Community Services Board.
“I’m going to release you because you’ve done everything you’ve been asked to do,” Gill told Glanton, now 58, referencing a glowing report from Glanton’s case worker, who said he has shown model behavior and remains psychiatrically stable.
“I wish you well,” the judge added, after warning Glanton to stay on his regimen of medications. “Good luck.”
At Glanton’s 2004 trial, psychologist Evan S. Nelson testified that Glanton believed Balbaugh was a chicken when he encountered Balbaugh outside the victim’s mobile home at the James River Marina.
Nelson explained that Glanton lost an eye in a fight about 25 years earlier and developed the delusion that the eye had magical powers that protected him from aliens who were taking over the world by converting people to chickens.
Prosecutors have reservations about Glanton not being under supervision.
In opposing Glanton’s release, Chesterfield Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney John Childrey acknowledged that Glanton appears to have made great progress over the years in a structured environment, but reminded the court that Glanton committed a “vicious, horrific crime against a stranger” on April 23, 2003.
Although Glanton seems to have the best intentions for self-rehabilitation and continued good behavior, “without structure, this is an extremely dangerous individual” — based on the slaying and other misdeeds he committed dating to the 1970s, Childrey said. Releasing him from supervision would be a risky proposition and “untether him from the court,” the prosecutor said.
But defense attorney John Rockecharlie noted that Glanton has excelled by every measure and has met or exceeded expectations set by county mental health authorities over the years. Rockecharlie credited Gill, who presided over Glanton’s trial a dozen years ago, with saving his life.
“He is not nearly the person he was 13 years ago,” Rocke-charlie said, noting his client’s then-extreme psychosis.
Glanton was released in 2009 from Central State Hospital, a state psychiatric facility in Dinwiddie County, and transitioned to a group home, where he lived for two years, Rockecharlie said. He was then allowed to live independently in an apartment in Chesterfield, but under continued close supervision. He also has strong family support, and two of his relatives were in attendance Tuesday.
He was employed for several years at a Home Depot store in Chesterfield, working three to four hours a day, five days a week. But he lost the job — despite being named employee of the month several times — after the victim’s family learned of his employment during a similar review hearing last year and complained to store management.
Glanton’s case worker, Acacia Hendricks, testified that Glanton is self-sufficient and takes his prescribed medications on his own. After he lost his job last year, Glanton continued to stay productive and participated in various programs and counseling sessions offered by the Community Services Board, Hendricks said.
“We do think he’ll easily be employed,” Hendricks told the judge. Now that Glanton has been released from supervision, prosecutors no longer will be required to notify Balbaugh’s family of his employment.
Balbaugh’s family did not attend Tuesday’s proceedings, and they could not immediately be reached for comment. During Glanton’s annual review hearing last year, family members raised strong objections to Glanton’s release, presenting a petition with 166 signatures urging the court not to release him.
“Demand to keep a killer in a mental hospital,” the petition read. Six of Balbaugh’s relatives testified against his release last May.
“They are fearful the court may release him and didn’t want to be here if that occurred,” Childrey told the court about the family’s absence Tuesday.
According to evidence presented at his trial, Glanton, then a forklift driver from Atlanta, was convinced he had to get to Washington to warn the government that aliens were taking over the world by converting people to chickens, so he took a taxicab from Atlanta to Augusta, Ga., where he caught a bus.
The bus driver kicked him off the bus in Rocky Mount, N.C., because he was awakening passengers and talking gibberish. Glanton hitchhiked and walked to Petersburg, where police put him in a cab to the Richmond bus station on North Boulevard.
He called a sister in Atlanta about 2 a.m. on April 23, 2003, and told her that he felt as if everyone was in a conspiracy against him and that he was afraid to get on the bus.
She told him to come home, but Glanton saw someone who looked like him get off a bus, and he believed the aliens had already replaced him with a duplicate, Nelson, the psychologist, testified.
So Glanton apparently walked south 11 miles along Interstate 95 until he arrived at a mobile home at the James River Marina at Chippenham Parkway near where Falling Creek spills into the James River. Balbaugh, 41, worked at the marina and lived in the mobile home, which doubled as an office.
Glanton could see the mobile home and Balbaugh’s pickup truck just over the guardrail. Apparently, Glanton tried to take the truck, and Balbaugh confronted him. Balbaugh was struck at least 20 times in the head and died. Glanton was arrested later that morning when police responded to a complaint that he was trying to steal a truck near the Shops at Willow Lawn.
Nelson testified at trial that Glanton provided a tremendous amount of detail in describing his delusional thinking and behavior, much of it supported by co-workers in Atlanta, his landlord and family members.
For example, the landlord recalled that he saw Glanton walking on a sidewalk, flapping his arms and standing on one leg periodically. Glanton told Nelson that was so the aliens would think he had already been converted to a chicken.
Nelson and another psychologist, Mariah T. Travis, agreed that Glanton was insane when he killed Balbaugh because he did not understand “the character, nature and consequences of his actions.”
Balbaugh’s family members could hardly believe it.
“He is a murderer,” Balbaugh’s sister, Linda Balbaugh-Delahoyde, said at the time. “He did not murder a chicken — he murdered” a man who was a brother, father, grandfather and uncle.
Balbaugh-Delahoyde said her family “has no compassion for this convenient psychotic episode.” She contended that enough time had elapsed between his arrest and the psychological evaluations for Glanton “to calm himself and compose this fairy tale.”
On Wednesday, Glanton, speaking in a calm and steady manner, answered several questions on the witness stand, saying he has developed firm roots in Chesterfield, is ready to go back to work, and the mental health support he has received over the years has “made me a better person.”
“I’m deeply sorry for the whole situation,” he said.