The case of Vanessa Logman is one tiny step closer to a conclusion. At stake is where she will live when it’s over.
Nine months after cutting a man’s throat near Pilot Rock, the Pendleton mother of four attended another pre-trial hearing Monday so judge and attorneys could compare notes on the case. Logman has undergone two independent psychological examinations to determine her mental state when she attacked a Hermiston man near Pilot Rock.
Before the assault, the Pendleton woman had a record marred only by a single traffic violation several years earlier. On June 4, all that changed.
Her husband, Dan, arrived home from work the night before to find dinner prepared and evidence that his boys had been playing on the Slip ‘N Slide in the yard. Unbeknownst to Dan, Vanessa, who has bipolar disorder, had set off in the family van for Indian Lake with her sons. She had no food, water or camping gear and the Ford Windstar’s gas tank was almost empty. The family slept in the van and, according to Dan, Vanessa progressed to “a full-on delusional state,” as Vanessa believed she was being chased.
The next morning, she and the boys walked toward Pilot Rock in 90-degree heat, eventually waving down Bill Porter and his ex-wife, Brenda Porter. At the offer of a ride, Vanessa and her sons climbed into the back seat of Porter’s Dodge pickup. According to police reports, she pulled a knife from her purse, grabbed Bill Porter’s shoulder and sliced into his throat. The Hermiston man braked and he and Brenda Porter pulled Vanessa from the truck, wresting the knife from her hand.
Logman was booked into the Umatilla County Jail on charges of attempted murder, assault in the second degree and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon. Bill Porter’s wound required 11 stitches. Brenda Porter suffered minor injuries.
A psychological exam concluded that she was mentally impaired during the attack, according to Dan, though the results are not yet available to the public. At a pre-trial hearing last November, chief deputy district attorney Jaclyn Jenkins asked Umatilla County Circuit Court Judge Daniel J. Hill to authorize another psychological exam and was granted the request. Logman submitted to another examination in January at the Oregon State Hospital.
Two experts agreeing that Logman was mentally impaired during her criminal act opens the door for use of a guilty but insane defense at trial. Though neither attorney would talk about the conclusions of either examination, their actions in court indicate they are proceeding as if the defendant is someone deemed to be guilty except for insanity.
On Monday, the 31-year-old defendant sat next to her attorney, Michael Breiling, as her husband watched from the gallery. Judge Hill listened as Breiling requested time to determine whether mental health professionals from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation could legally supervise Logman’s mental health care for the Psychiatric Security Review Board, which oversees individuals who are ruled to be guilty except for insanity. Breiling and Jenkins checked their schedules and agreed on May 8 at 2:30 p.m. for the next pre-trial hearing.
Ultimately, Judge Hill must decide whether Logman must go to the Oregon State Hospital for treatment or continue treatment in her community. Breiling is pushing for the community scenario. Jenkins wants otherwise.
“I believe this defendant should go to the State Hospital,” Jenkins said. “That has been my position.”
Both parties have agreed that Judge Hill should decide Logman’s fate rather than a jury.
“The judge will make a determination whether Vanessa is dangerous to others,” Breiling said. “He will decide about whether she is conditionally released or committed to the State Hospital.”
After the hearing, Vanessa and Dan sat down to decompress. It’s been a long haul, Dan said.
“It’s been nine months, 10 days,” he said, pausing to look at his watch, “and 37 minutes since I was informed about what happened.”
He believes his wife should stay in the community with her family.
“Both doctors have argued in essence she was suffering from a mental disease at the time,” Dan said. “It would seem an easy thing to say that someone who has never been in trouble before is owed a second chance.”
After being released on bail shortly after the attack, Vanessa said, the couple devised a plan to help her stay psychologically healthy. She sees a counselor weekly. Dan keeps a medication log, noting the time and drug — even asking her to stick out her tongue to show the pill. They exercise together several times each week and eat nutritious meals.
“We have more safety nets in place,” Vanessa said.
The couple continues to wonder whether the whole incident could have been averted if Vanessa had been able to get a counseling appointment as she attempted to do the day before at the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center.
They said the past months have strengthened their relationship.
“This kind of thing tears you apart or brings you together,” Dan said. “In the nine years we have been together, we have never been closer.”
They feel grateful to the Porter’s “act of kindness,” stopping that day. They fear what might have happened to the boys without the kindness of strangers.
The Porters are withholding comment, for now, until the case makes its way through court.
Contact Kathy Aney at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-966-0810.