Trumbull judge rejects changed status for Hubbard, Taco Bell killer

Staff report


Despite a recommendation from staff at a state mental hospital in Massillon that James Hubbard be advanced to a less restrictive status, Judge W. Wyatt McKay has rejected the change.

Hubbard, 48, of Warren, was found innocent by reason of insanity of a 1991 murder and attempted murder after police said he shot to death one woman in the parking lot of the former Taco Bell restaurant in Niles and fired a gun at another woman on Ridge Road in Weathersfield Township the same day.

An assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, a state public defender and Judge McKay on Wednesday questioned Stephen Noffsinger, a forensic psychiatrist for the Ohio Department of Mental Health, about Hubbard’s behavior at Heartland Behavioral Heathcare over the past 17 months.

Noffsinger, who was selected by Judge McKay, said Hubbard suffers from schizophrenia, but the monthly reports completed by staff indicate Hubbard has complied with his treatment program, which includes his use of inject-able medication.

He’s on Level 3, but staff want him moved to Level 4, which would allow him to travel outside of Northcoast hospital with staff. Level 4 is a “prelude” to an even less restrictive Level 5 and eventual release into the community, Noffsinger said.

But Noffsinger testified that supervision of such travels is not handled by trained security personnel, a point Judge McKay cited when he issued his ruling at the end of Wednesday’s hearing.

“It is the court’s opinion he represents too much of a danger,” Judge McKay said. “The staffing that would be there on Level 4 is not security.”

Noffsinger testified it is concerning — but not uncommon for people with the illness — that Hubbard continues to insist that he isn’t mentally ill and that his medication doesn’t help him.

Within the past 17 months, Hubbard also has said the killing and attempted killing from 1991 occurred because he “felt threatened and overreacted,” according to testimony.

A hearing takes place in common pleas court about every two years to determine what security level is appropriate for Hubbard.

Hubbard sat quietly and didn’t show any emotion during the hearing.

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