Virginia Beach father who beheaded son granted conditional release

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- A man charged with beheading his 5-year-old son in 2009 will be released from a state mental institution sometime this week, affiliate WTKR reports.

On Monday, a Virginia Beach Circuit Court judge agreed Joseph Hagerman III be released from Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg following certain conditions.

In part, Hagerman will have to live in adult foster care, continue to take his medication and attend therapy. Additionally, much of the court hearing was spent proving Hagerman had a network of mental health professionals and family members willing to support him as he continued his mental health recovery.

"He has been a model patient," one of Hagerman's mental health doctors testified. "We have had absolutely no issues with him."

The conditional release was initially requested by hospital staff. The court then ordered Hagerman undergo two independent mental evaluations. The psychiatrists involved in those mental evaluations later agreed that Hagerman was ready for conditional release.

The courtroom was filled with mental health professionals and family members in support of Hagerman. These were the same family members who lost a loved one the day 5-year-old Joshua was murdered by his father.

"We are just happy that it is over with, and he has been given another chance," said Hagerman's sister, Maria Lancaster. "I just want to let the community know that my brother is a very loving, generous, Christian man. He had a wonderful family, and it was an unfortunate incident."

"Everyone needs to get educated on mental illness," Lancaster added.

Officials charged Joseph Hagerman III with the murder of his young son after they found the boy beheaded in the family's Sugar Creek Drive home in February of 2009.

At the time of his arrest Hagerman was also charged with malicious wounding because police said he hurt his wife who was trying to save their son from the attack.

In a jailhouse interview with WTKR, Hagerman admitted to killing his son because he thought he was the Antichrist. Attorneys said Hagerman was suffering his third intense psychotic break when the crime occurred, and that he suffers from schizophrenia.

A few months later, Hagerman was found not guilty due by reason of insanity. He has been receiving mental treatment in a hospital ever since.

Hagerman is expected to be released later this week after his attorney, Annette Miller, files the appropriate paperwork with the court.

"You do not know a person until you walk in their shoes," Miller told WTKR's Merris Badcock outside the courtroom. "You do not know what that family went through. You do not know what [Mr. Hagerman] went to make judgments just because of some basic story line is not fair."

"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 said in March.

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.

Hagerman will live in an adult foster home in Virginia Beach during the week, and stay with his parents on weekends. He will have a team of people who will see him twice a day to be sure he is taking his required medicines during the week. His parents will be in charge of his medications on the weekends.

Hagerman's father testified he was his son's guardian now, and could make decisions, like getting police or medical personnel involved, on his son's behalf.