A Dinwiddie County man who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in three 2013 killings was committed indefinitely to Central State Hospital for inpatient treatment and barred from receiving further weekend visitation passes to his mother’s Dinwiddie home.
Following the recommendations of several mental health experts who said Herbert C. Bland Jr. posed a significant risk to himself and others for the foreseeable future, Dinwiddie Circuit Judge Dennis M. Martin Sr. ordered Wednesday that he be committed to Central State for continued treatment.
Bland, 30, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2015 after killing his former girlfriend, Elizabeth Fassett, 42, and her mother, Barbara Fassett, 65, in 2013 at their Chesterfield County home. In April, Bland was found not guilty by reason of insanity in Dinwiddie in the murder of his father, Herbert C. Bland Sr., on the same day he killed the two women. All were fatally shot.
Clinical psychologists who evaluated Bland all determined he was insane at the time of the three killings.
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 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.
In April, 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 at the time. “Given the history, the citizen was concerned about the safety of Mrs. Bland and of the neighborhood.”
Baskervill contacted Dinwiddie investigators, and she said they also were “horrified,” so Baskervill said she sought out charges to have Bland arrested before he could leave Central State for another visit.
Rockecharlie, however, said Bland’s doctors had granted the conditional visitations to his mother’s home, but he was not allowed to be free on his own. The attorney said his mother would pick him up from the hospital and he was required to be with her “24/7.”
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. It wasn’t clear whether the judge signed off on the conditional visitations or whether the decision was made by Bland’s therapist.
Earlier this year, 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 progress.”
Contacted Thursday, Rockecharlie said, “I can say that in none of the correspondence that I received was there ever a mention that anyone had concerns about Herbert.”
However, in the Wednesday court order that required Bland’s committal, it says the court considered written evaluations submitted by five mental health professionals.
Two of the evaluators opined that Bland was mentally ill and in need of inpatient services; another wrote that Bland requires continued hospitalization and is “not a candidate for conditional release.”
A third said Bland should remain hospitalized “in order to mitigate community risk,” adding that if he was not hospitalized, “there would be a significant risk of bodily harm to himself or others in the foreseeable future.” A fourth expert concurred with that assessment, according to the order.
In pretrial evaluations, Bland was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia-paranoia or schizoaffective disorder.
Wednesday’s court order set an April 21, 2020, hearing for the court to review whether Bland still requires hospitalization. He cannot be released under any circumstances without the court’s permission.
“I am grateful that he remains institutionalized and no longer a threat to public safety and the community’s sense of security,” Baskervill said Thursday.