A man who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2015 after killing his girlfriend and her mother six years ago in Chesterfield County pleaded not guilty Friday for the same reason in the slaying of his father in Dinwiddie County — which occurred on the same day he fatally shot the Chesterfield women.
Herbert C. Bland Jr., 30, entered his pleas to charges of first-degree murder and felony use of a firearm in the Jan. 7, 2013, killing of his father, Herbert C. Bland Sr., whom he killed after fatally shooting Elizabeth Fassett, 65, and her daughter Barbara Fassett, 42, inside their River Road home.
Dinwiddie Circuit Judge Paul Cella accepted his pleas and found Bland not guilty by reason of insanity, based on an evaluation by the same clinical psychologist who determined Bland was insane at the time of the Chesterfield killings.
Bland now will be transferred from Meherrin River Regional Jail to Central State Hospital for another assessment. A July 10 hearing was set to determine what will happen to him next.
Before the Dinwiddie charges were filed against him last year, Bland already had been committed to Central State for the Chesterfield killings and was undergoing treatment. His Chesterfield attorney, John Rockecharlie, said Bland was granted occasional visitation passes to his mother’s Dinwiddie home because of the great progress he made through medication and therapy.
But it was his conditional release visits that prompted Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Cabell Baskervill to pursue charges against him in January 2018 — before he could be released for another family visit, the prosecutor said Friday.
Baskervill said she received a call in mid-January 2018 from an anonymous resident who expressed fear for Bland’s mother because her son had been home with her the previous weekend, and likely would be spending more weekends at home on “unsupervised release.”
“He had spent, and would be spending, his unsupervised time in the home where he killed his father,” Baskervill said. “Given the history, the citizen was concerned about the safety of Mrs. Bland and of the neighborhood.”
Baskervill said she contacted Dinwiddie investigators and they also were “horrified.” So Baskervill said she sought out charges to have Bland arrested before he could leave Central State for another weekend visit.
Rockecharlie said Bland’s doctors had granted the conditional visitations to his mother’s home but said he was not allowed to be free on his own. His mother would pick him up from the hospital, and “he would have to be with her 24/7,” Rockecharlie said.
“He was not free to be on his own without family or parental supervision,” Rockecharlie explained.
Rockecharlie noted that Circuit Judge Lynn Brice, who found Bland not guilty by reason of insanity in the Chesterfield killings, reviews Bland’s progress annually to determine whether he needs to remain under supervision as an inpatient at Central State or be released because his mental health has been restored and he’s no longer a danger to himself or the community. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Brice signed off on the conditional visitations.
“I believe it was a decision made by his therapist and I don’t know that they needed Judge Brice’s permission, because he was still under their supervision,” Rockecharlie said.
Baskervill said she didn’t pursue charges against Bland in 2013 because she didn’t want to interrupt the prosecution of Bland in Chesterfield, and she received a great deal of input from people urging her not to prosecute him in Dinwiddie.
“First and foremost was input from the Bland family,” said Baskervill, adding that she didn’t contest Bland’s insanity defense in Dinwiddie. “They did not want charges to be filed here.”
Rockecharlie said Bland’s family was “very unhappy and disappointed” with Dinwiddie’s decision to bring charges five years later, “because he was making fantastic and positive strides.” When he was arrested and remanded to Meherrin River Regional Jail from Central State, “he kind of backslid a little bit.”
“I think once he gets back to Central State, and they get him back into therapy, and they become confident after a period of time that it’s safe to let him back out to spend a weekend with his mother, I think that will happen,” Rockecharlie said.
“Central State now has to report to two judges,” Rockecharlie added. “But Central State is still going to report the same, that he’s doing much, much better than he was.”
In September 2015, Judge Brice found Bland not guilty by reason of insanity after hearing competing testimony from prosecution and defense clinical psychologists.
The defense expert, Dr. Evan Nelson, who twice evaluated Bland, said Bland had a mix of ideas that Elizabeth Fassett, whom he believed had introduced witchcraft into his body through the food they shared, should die “for the harm to him and die to end the clash between worlds, and die because she would be reincarnated in a way that somehow would set the universe straight.”
Bland was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia-paranoia or schizoaffective disorder.
A prosecution expert said Bland was mentally ill at the time of the killings and was delusional regarding his former girlfriend. But the psychologist said Bland’s statements and behavior indicated that he knew his actions were wrong and that the consequences of his behavior were going to lead to him being arrested.
After being found not guilty in the Chesterfield killings, Brice followed the recommendations of two mental health experts and committed Bland to Central State Hospital for an indeterminate period of inpatient treatment because of the severity of his mental illness and multiple risk factors for violence.