AUGUSTA — A Riverview Psychiatric Center patient found not criminally responsible for killing his father in 1995 will be allowed to move to a Glenridge Drive group home.

Robert E. Bowie, formerly of Hebron, has been in the care and custody of the state mental health system since being found not criminally responsible for killing his father, by stabbing him more than 30 times and slamming a sledgehammer into his head. He’s lived at Riverview, and before that on the same campus when the Augusta Mental Health Institute was operating there, since 1997.

On Friday, Justice Andrew M. Horton indicated he would approve Bowie’s petition requesting permission to move to a group home on Glenridge Drive in Augusta, which is about a half-mile away from Riverview. The decision followed a hearing that included testimony from his aunt, who spoke strongly against the move, and who previously has spoken out against his requests for time in the community.

“I sincerely feel he will always be a threat to public safety,” Elsie Dill, Bowie’s late father’s sister said in her emotional testimony in court. “My heart goes out to Robbie, as we used to call him, because here’s his Grinch of an aunt who has been here every time, saying these negative, nasty things that I’m sure must be difficult for him to hear.

“But I feel very determined to do everything possible to make sure I’m safe, my family is safe, the public is safe and he is safe,” she added. “I’m scared, I have to tell you that — scared for him and scared for others.” 

Dill, however, said she is willing to help her nephew as he deals with his mental illness. As Bowie left the courtroom, the two talked briefly, with Bowie shaking her hand and Dill leaning in to kiss his cheek tenderly.

“I used to be very bitter and angry and mad as hell for losing my brother,” Dill said. “Now, after coming to these hearings and seeing the process, I feel I’m now ready to do anything I can do to help, because this is a very tragic situation. I’d sincerely like to see things change with him if possible, but I think we need to be very, very careful.”

Bowie, 53, who Riverview officials said has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, substance abuse disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety disorder, spoke briefly in court. He explained why, after 22 years of being institutionalized in a hospital setting, he feels ready to move to a group home.

“I’m very appreciative of everybody taking the time to hear my case. I’m doing well, with my medications I’m doing very well,” said the tall Bowie, wearing a suit and tie. “I can see how a lot of people worry about me. Part of the reason I’ve taken so long to get myself out to a group home, I honestly thought it was impossible.”

He said he realized he was doing better after members of his treatment team pointed out his improvements.

Experts testified Friday they believe the move — if done with caution and at a pace at which Bowie is comfortable — should be a positive one as he makes progress in his treatment.

Debra Baeder, chief forensic psychologist of the State Forensic Service, said an advantage of him moving to the Glenridge facility is it is close to Riverview, and he could easily come back if he needs to. The transition would be done gradually, officials said, with him first visiting the group home, where he already knows some of the staff and other patients, before moving in. She also said the staff at that group home has extensive experience with patients found not criminally responsible for committing crimes.

Baeder and Horton said the amount of unsupervised time Bowie is allowed to be outside in the community, which currently is an hour, should be reduced during the transition to the group home in case the move causes him anxiety.

“My impression is Mr. Bowie is ready to move forward,” Baeder said. “Standard procedure, when you move from Riverview to a group home, is that time in the community is dialed back, initially. It might start with 15 minutes. I’d recommend that procedure be the same for Mr. Bowie.”

She said he should also be allowed time to go to meetings he attends now — a substance abuse support group at the LINC Club in Augusta and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings — which she said have been beneficial to him.

Horton, echoing the thoughts of experts who testified, said he would approve the move, but that it needs to be done cautiously and at Bowie’s own pace.

“I’m prepared to agree you should be able to explore a transition to this group home setting,” Horton said to Bowie. “The court is trusting that you’ll work within the framework, keep people aware of your whereabouts and also that you’ll take it at your own speed.”