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MONTELLO, Wis. – A 71-year-old man accused of assaulting his wife with a claw hammer while she slept was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
Donald Gross of Montello will not go to jail, but Friday’s ruling means he will have to undergo evaluation and could face more than 12 years of being institutionalized during his treatment.
Gross was arrested in September 2005 after police said he struck his wife with a hammer when she was sleeping and again when she woke up.
He then tried to smother her with a pillow, according to court documents.
The wife needed 19 stitches to close lacerations caused in the attack.
Two specialists determined that Gross suffers from a paranoia disorder so he couldn’t be held criminally responsible for his actions, said Marquette County District Attorney Richard Dufour.
Marquette County Circuit Judge Richard O. Wright ordered Gross to be examined by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Human Services within the next 10 days. After the examination a hearing will be held to determine whether Gross will be committed to an institution or placed in a conditional release program.
Gross briefly addressed the court Friday – at one point breaking down in tears – saying what happened was out of character for him.
His wife did not attend the hearing.
Gross has been taking medication for depression for nine years, said Jeff Haase, his attorney. But the dosage was never adjusted, contributing to the attack, he said.
If his doctors feel Gross is no longer a danger to himself or others, Gross can petition the court to decrease his 12 1/2-year term of commitment.
He must remain in custody of the Marquette County Jail until the evaluation is completed. At that point officials will schedule another hearing to determine what kind of treatment he will receive.
Information from: Portage Daily Register, http://www.portage.scwn.com