Mentally Ill Man Arrested after Counselor Reported Patient’s Plan to Commit Murder

A mentally ill man was arrested in Utah after his counselor reported the patient’s plan to commit murder.

On a deadly assignment

25 year old Joseph Terrill Bonnell-Hall who is listed as a resident of Plummer Idaho within the boundaries of the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Reservation was arrested in Utah while allegedly en route to Albuquerque New Mexico to murder four people. Bonnell-Hall’s counselor at a treatment center on the reservation alerted authorities that Bonnell-Hall was mentally ill and had left the facility with plans to murder people. According to the information put out by a dispatcher in Utah, Bonnell-Hall suffers from schizophrenia and told his psychologist the voices in his head were telling him to kill people in New Mexico who were using magic to hurt him. Law enforcement in Utah located Bonnell-Hall outside a grocery store in Spanish Fork with weapons and ammunition in his vehicle.

Attempted murder from 500 miles away

Bonnell-Hall was arrested and booked into the Utah county jail for multiple charges including:

• Possession of a deadly weapon with criminal intent, a class A misdemeanor according to Utah Code 76-10-507; and

• Four counts of attempted murder, each a first degree felony despite the fact that Bonnell-Hall was still over 500 miles away from those he allegedly planned on killing.

There is a possibility that Bonnell-Hall may face more charges including those on a federal level since his crime encompassed three different states. It is not known if the Tribal Police of the Coeur d’Alene reservation will be also add any additional charges at this time.

Substantial step toward the crime

While Bonnell-Hall still had nine hours of drive time left before his planned victims would have been in immediate physical danger, he voiced a threat of violence or death and made steps towards carrying out that threat such as already being halfway to his destination and crossing state lines while in possession of firearms and ammunition. Utah Code 76-4-101 states: “… a person is guilty of an attempt to commit a crime if he:

a) engages in conduct constituting a substantial step toward commission of the crime; and

b) (i) intends to commit the crime; or

(ii) when causing a particular result is an element of the crime, he acts with an awareness that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause that result.”

Doctor/patient confidentiality

While the general public is happy that someone who was a threat to others and possibly himself is off the street, the concern with the breach of doctor and patient privacy or the seeming disregard of HIPPA rules cannot be ignored. The easy answer to this breech of patient privacy could be due to the fact that the healthcare professional was on the tribal reservation, which falls out of state and federal jurisdiction and is therefore not expected to uphold to the same restrictions. Had that same healthcare professional been within Utah State jurisdiction however, surprisingly it would have been the same result.

Protect patient privacy unless…

Utah Code 58-61-602 begins by issuing strict guidelines protecting patient privacy. It reads: “A psychologist . . . may not disclose any confidential communication with a client or patient without the express consent of: the client or patient; the parent or legal guardian of a minor client or patient; or the authorized agent of a client or patient.” That same section goes on to note however that there are instances where “the psychologist is permitted or required by state or federal law, rule, regulation, or order to report or disclose any confidential communication . . . “. This includes when the information pertains to the “abuse, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult”, “child abuse or neglect “, “communicable disease”, or if it falls under the “limitations of therapist’s duty to warn” found in 78B-3-502 which reads:

(1) A therapist has no duty to warn or take precautions to provide protection from any violent behavior of his client or patient, except when that client or patient communicated to the therapist an actual threat of physical violence against a clearly identified or reasonably identifiable victim. That duty shall be discharged if the therapist makes reasonable efforts to communicate the threat to the victim, and notifies a law enforcement officer or agency of the threat.”

That section protects a therapist for breeching privacy laws by stating:

(2) An action may not be brought against a therapist for breach of trust or privilege, or for disclosure of confidential information, based on a therapist’s communication of information to a third party in an effort to discharge his duty in accordance with Subsection 1. . .”

Since Bonnell-Hall told his counselor that he planned to kill specific people, the counselor then had enough information to alert the authorities in an effort to try and protect the potential victims. Although sessions with a counselor or psychologist should be private and even disturbing things said during that time are kept private, if the counselor feels there is a specific threat to a person or persons, they are obligated to report it. For more information on when doctor patient information can be used against a defendant in court, contact a criminal defense attorney.

New Arrest Links Suspect in Database For Decade Old Murder Case

A person new to the criminal database in Utah was linked to a decade old murder case in West Valley City.

Cold case

Photo by: Tom Britt

In January of 2007 Tri Phan, the owner of a billiards hall in West Valley City Utah was found murdered inside his business. Detectives on the case canvassed the area for clues and spoke with witnesses but were unable to determine a suspect in the case. A key piece of evidence was a single bloody fingerprint that led them nowhere since it was not in their database yet.

New arrest, new entry in database

Several years after the murder, a man was arrested for an unrelated crime and his information along with his fingerprints was entered into the criminal database for the first time. 37 year old Tien Truong Nguyen was then connected to the murder after detectives linked the fingerprints obtained from when he was booked into jail with the single bloody fingerprint left at the crime scene over ten years earlier. Nguyen was arrested for first degree murder over a decade after the crime was committed.

National Crime Information Center

Photo by: CPOA

According to FBI.gov, “the National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, has been called the lifeline of law enforcement – an electronic clearinghouse of crime data that can be tapped into by virtually every criminal justice agency nationwide, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.” They also state that “By the end of 2015, NCIC contained 12 million active records in 21 files.” Those records consist of stolen items, missing persons, as well as criminal records.

Forensic evidence and technological advances

As technology continues to advance, so do forensics. With this comes more information added to the criminal database such as fingerprint analysis and DNA profiling which could lead to arrests in other cold cases. For more information on charges related to cold cases and other charges stemming from forensic evidence, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Felony Child Endangerment for Prenatal or Breastfed Drug Exposure

Two Utah mothers have been arrested within the last month for child endangerment after their babies experienced prenatal or breastfed drug exposure.

Born addicted

Photo by: Sander van der Wel

A Tooele Utah mother was arrested late last month after her baby was born prematurely and with drugs in its system. 20 year old Shay Christensen gave birth to her baby just 1 week shy of her third trimester while in the bathroom during a prenatal appointment. While the preemie survived its premature birth, both mother and infant tested positive for illicit drugs and Christensen was arrested for felony child endangerment.

Tainted breast milk

Last week a 3 day old baby boy was rushed to the hospital in St. George after the infant stopped breathing and turned blue. During an investigation, a needle full of heroin was discovered in a diaper bag and the mother admitted it was hers. 29 year old Elizabeth Canon told police she had used heroin and then breastfed her baby multiple times. After ingesting the tainted breastmilk, the baby ceased breathing and CPR was performed until paramedics arrived. Canon was booked in the Washington County Jail on felony child endangerment.

Felony child endangerment

Utah Code 76-5-112.5 states regarding felony child endangerment:

(a)“A person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if the person knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child . . . to be exposed to, inhale, ingest, or have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia; . . .
(b)A person is guilty of a felony of the second degree if the person engages in the conduct described [above]; and as a result, a child . . . suffers bodily injury, substantial bodily injury, or serious bodily injury; . . .
(c)A person is guilty of a felony of the first degree if the person engages in the conduct described [above] and as a result of the conduct . . . a child . . . dies.”

Both Utah mothers are facing second degree felonies since their babies suffered injuries due to the parent’s drug use; One being born prematurely and with injuries from the mother using while pregnant and the other’s respiratory system going into distress after being exposed to drugs while breastfeeding. A second degree felony in Utah is punishable by a possible prison term of one to 15 years as well as fine of up to $10,000.

Substance abuse during pregnancy

Photo by: Torsten Mangner

Both Utah women are suspected of using drugs during pregnancy and while many parents couldn’t imagine exposing an unborn baby or infant to drugs, it is more common than people think. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “there was a five-fold increase in the proportion of babies born with NAS [neonatal abstinence syndrome] from 2000 to 2012, when an estimated 21,732 infants were born with NAS – equivalent to one baby suffering from opiate withdrawal born every 25 minutes.” Although many pregnant mothers are able to get rid or unhealthy or dangerous habits for the sake of their unborn child, addiction is hard for many to overcome-regardless of their born and unborn children who are depending on them to stay sober.

Seek help

Those who are looking for help with substance abuse including parents or soon to be parents are encouraged to call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-622-HELP(4357). According to their website, “SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 265-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.” They go on to note “This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.” For legal questions or aid regarding criminal charges related to substance abuse and its effect on the loved ones of those suffering from addiction, contact a criminal defense attorney.