WASHINGTON – The relationship between John Hinckley Jr. and his former girlfriend needs more study before any decision is made about allowing the would-be assassin of President Reagan (search) more time away from a mental hospital, government psychiatrists said Friday.
But Hinckley's therapist and a senior hospital psychiatrist said Hinckley has overcome the breakup and no longer poses a danger to himself or others.
Questions about Hinckley's relationship with Leslie deVeau (search) — the former girlfriend — dominated the fourth day of a hearing on Hinckley's request to spend several days at a time away from St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, where he has lived since being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 1981 shooting of Reagan and three others.
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman set closing arguments in the hearing for Monday and said he would issue a decision soon after that.
Hinckley was romantically involved with deVeau while she was also a patient at the hospital and for nearly a decade after she was released in 1990. DeVeau moved to end the relationship in 1999, saying she did not like being the subject of public scrutiny.
Last year, Hinckley told doctors he had handled the breakup and was moving on, but recently he told doctors he still loves deVeau, wears the engagement ring she once gave him and talks with her by phone twice every day.
Robert Phillips, a forensic psychiatrist testifying for the government, said Hinckley's relationships with women caused him to act out in the past and he fears unresolved feelings toward deVeau could set him off again. It was Hinckley's obsession with actress Jodie Foster (search) that led him to try and assassinate Reagan.
"I have no sense that Mr. Hinckley has fully appreciated (the breakup) or that those issues have been fully confronted," Phillips said.
Since his 1982 acquittal, Hinckley gradually has won permission to leave hospital grounds, first with escorts and then, for short unsupervised visits with his parents. The trips have been uneventful.
Hinckley now wants permission to stay four nights at his parents' home in Williamsburg, Va., every two weeks. Officials at St. Elizabeths suggested instead that Hinckley spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family before being granted regular visits. Federal prosecutors oppose both plans.
In a last-minute effort to appease the government, Hinckley's lawyer hastily arranged a two-hour meeting Wednesday with deVeau and Hinckley's treatment team. DeVeau said she believes Hinckley has come to terms with the relationship, according to notes of the meeting recited in court.
"It seems like the rebuff has already happened and he's dealt with it," said Paul Montalbano, a forensic psychiatrist at St. Elizabeths who supports Hinckley's request for extended visits.