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Va. man who decapitated son could be released from mental hospital

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- A father decapitated his 5-year-old son in 2009, but, according to the Virginian Pilot, Joseph Hagerman now faces the possibility that he will be released from the Virginia mental institution where he has lived for more than seven years.

The crime happened in Virginia Beach, and the Pilot article shows Hagerman had previously been hospitalized twice for paranoid schizophrenia, and he hadn't been taking his psychiatric medicine before beheading his son.

Hagerman was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and he went to live at Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg.

Joseph Hagerman in 2009. (PHOTO: The Virginian-Pilot)

Joseph Hagerman in 2009. (PHOTO: The Virginian-Pilot)

The Pilot states a forensic review panel there recommended last month that he be released with certain conditions.

"If you're found not guilty by reason of insanity you go into the mental health facility and they try to restore you, they try to get you back to a position where you go back into the public, and the idea behind it is you haven't committed a criminal offense because you never had that intent to begin with," CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone explained.

Prosecutors oppose Hagerman's release, and a judge granted their request for two independent evaluations of Hagerman.

Stone, who is a criminal defense attorney and successfully won a sanity case once, said he can understand why the public might be concerned that Hagerman will be released, but he has seen people become successful after pleading not guilty by reason of insanity and leaving a mental institution.

"There is no way anybody can guarantee the person is going to take their medicine or abide by the laws when they're out, but they do put really close restrictions on people especially with very aggravated criminal fact patterns like this," Stone said.

According to the Pilot, Hagerman has been allowed to leave the facility for up to 48 hour numerous time over the past couple of years.

A judge will make the final decision about whether or not he should be released.