AUGUSTA — A former Skowhegan woman found not criminally responsible for killing a man on Christmas Eve 2009 is seeking permission to move to a new group home in Glenburn to be closer to relatives, but the victim’s family is against it.

Karen McCaul was committed to state custody after being found not criminally responsible for stabbing Richard Howe of Troy to death in Skowhegan. She petitioned the court to be allowed to move from Augusta to a new, 12-bed group home operated by Opportunity House Inc., a nonprofit that has provided services to people with intellectual disabilities, autism and mental illness for 35 years.

McCaul has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, cognitive disorder, polysubstance abuse and paranoid personality disorder.

Howe’s body was found just inside the doorway of McCaul’s apartment on Dec. 24, 2009. Howe knew McCaul, 54, who has a long history of mental illness, through his job as a volunteer driver for the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program.

Members of Howe’s family attended Wednesday’s petition hearing and Howe’s daughter Courtney Munger addressed the court.

Munger said her father would want McCaul, the woman who killed him, to be able to be closer to her family. Munger said her father would be happy McCaul is making progress.

But she said she does not want McCaul allowed to move so close to Bangor, where Munger works as an emergency medical technician, in part because she doesn’t want to risk encountering her father’s killer.

She said attending hearings each time McCaul seeks a change in her custody restrictions is difficult.

“Having more time away (from Riverview Psychiatric Center), that’s great for Karen, it’s great the mental health system is working for her, but as a casualty of the incident I can honestly say, I hate it,” Munger told Justice Michaela Murphy.

Dr. Debra Baeder, chief forensic psychologist for the State Forensic Service, which evaluates petitioners, said McCaul is remorseful for both the victim and his family. She said it would be reasonable to include restrictions that would reduce the chance of McCaul having contact with Howe’s family.

“I can understand that would be an emotionally charged experience on both sides,” Baeder said.

Baeder, who has known McCaul since she was committed to state custody, said she has made remarkable progress and developed coping skills to deal with “stressors.” Her psychotic symptoms are “virtually entirely remitted,” she takes her medications as directed, is motivated to continue her progress and the risk she poses to the community has been greatly reduced, Baeder said.

Murphy declined to make a decision at the hearing, saying she needs to hear more about the new facility, where state officials said McCaul would likely be the only patient found not criminally responsible for a crime. The rest of the patients there were committed through the civil process, or came voluntarily.

Murphy and mental health professionals who testified Wednesday said it is important that staff at the new facility are trained to deal with a forensic patient and understand that McCaul’s treatment must comply with court orders.

Murphy said she wants to meet with someone from Opportunity House to talk to them about those issues, then make a decision on McCaul’s petition.

Asked by Assistant Attorney General Laura Yustak Smith whether she had any concerns about McCaul being placed in a facility with non-forensic patients, Baeder said she did not. She said McCaul’s clinical issues are not dissimilar to those of other mental health patients.

Dr. Carolyn Criss, clinical director of Riverview Outpatient Services, said the move to the Glenburn facility was sought so McCaul can be closer to her family, including a sister in Bangor. She said when McCaul has visited her sister in the past she has returned relaxed and in a positive mood.

McCaul has also had two recurrences of cancer, and Criss said the facility in Glenburn would have staff trained to deal with medical issues.

In 2012, McCaul was granted additional supervised time in the community and in 2014 she was allowed to move from Riverview to a nearby group home on Glenridge Drive in Augusta.

The group home in Glenburn is not yet filled but officials anticipate it will eventually have 12 patients, with five to six staff members there each day and at least three staff members there at night.

Keith Edwards — 207-621-5647

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Twitter: @kedwardskj

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