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Mahoning judge commits killer to mental hospital

Staff photo / Ed Runyan Jillian Russell, 41, talks to Judge Anthony D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday during a hearing where the judge determined that she needed to be committed to a state mental hospital as a “mentally ill person subject to court order.” At right is her attorney, Walter Madison.

YOUNGSTOWN — Judge Anthony D’Apolito heard from the prosecution, defense and Jillian L. Russell, 41, then referenced many psychological evaluations carried out on Russell after she shot a friend to death in Russell’s home in 2020.

The judge ruled that Russell must now be committed to a state mental hospital as a “mentally ill person subject to a court order.” The judge found her not guilty by reason of insanity at a hearing in May in his Mahoning County Common Pleas courtroom, requiring the next step of determining whether her mental illness requires hospitalization, which he said it did.

“Ms. Russell exhibits a substantial disorder of thought, mood and perception that grossly impaired and impairs her judgment, her behavior and her capacity to recognize or ability to meet ordinary issues of life,” the judge said.

Russell will be evaluated periodically, and a hearing will be held by D’Apolito to determine the least restrictive type of care she needs. The first review is in six months, and others will follow every two years.

“It has been well established by the courts and the opinions of almost every physician who evaluated her that she suffers from schizophrenia or a serious mental illness,” he said. He noted that Dr. Jessica Hart of the Forensic Psychiatric Center of Northeast Ohio in Austintown, who evaluated Russell June 7, “opines that Ms. Russell does not meet the criteria for serious mental illness.”

The judge found at the earlier hearing that Russell committed the aggravated murder and murder of Marcus D. Turnage, 38, of Kent, at Russell’s home in Youngstown April 12, 2020, for which she was charged, but she “did not know the wrongfulness of her actions.”

The judge noted that Dr. Hart’s “conclusion of Russell not suffering from schizophrenia or a serious mental illness” is contrary to the diagnosis of three other doctors who “agreed Ms. Russell suffers from symptoms of schizophrenia.” The judge noted that Hart did not look at a video of Russell made “immediately after the incident that led to this charge.”

Jennifer Paris, assistant county prosecutor, cited the evaluations by several doctors, including Russell’s “history of self-harm with regard to overdosing and drug use” in recommending that Russell be deemed a mentally ill person subject to hospitalization.

Paris said, “I think the facts of this case alone illustrate” that Russell represents a danger to people. She mentioned that at the time she killed Turnage, Russell indicated that she thought “her son was the messiah, that the victim in this matter — although he didn’t make any verbal threats to her, although he did not make any verbal threats to her son — she believed based on her delusional thinking that he was going to kill her son and at that point, her hand was forced to kill the victim in this matter.”

She also mentioned that her son “would, I guess participate in the resurrection of the victim in this matter, fairly delusional thinking,” Paris said. She said the danger to people, as a result, requires that Russell be hospitalized so that she can be monitored and treated.

Russell spoke to the judge, starting out by saying that she’s been locked up four years and the death of Turnage was “a one-time situation. I caught the Holy Ghost. There is no medical condition that can describe that, and that is what happened. I never talked in tongues a day of my life before. I’m just missing out on everything with my family, and I miss them so much.”

Russell said she was referencing a doctor when she said “I’m well enough to go home.”

The judge asked her to further explain what she meant by “you caught the Holy Ghost.”

She called it “a religious experience” and said speaking in tongues is “a whole other language. It’s only from God. I can’t explain it, and just because you all don’t understand it doesn’t mean I should be punished.”

The judge asked Russell what happened the day she killed Turnage.

She said “I heard a still, quiet voice, and that was the Holy Spirit. I guess that’s how He talks to people. I don’t hear voices. I never heard a voice before that day in my life. And that’s what happened. I started speaking in tongues, and God was talking. And God was in my body calling Lazarus and telling him to get up. He didn’t care if he didn’t get back up.” She said talking in tongues “happens to people every day.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Ed Runyan by email at erunyan@vindy.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.

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