Arkansas police launch manhunt for psychologist who fled hospital with patient

Authorities launched a dragnet Wednesday for a psychologist and patient who walked out of the Arkansas State Hospital without permission earlier this week.

An arrest warrant was issued for Michelle Messer, 41, a psychological examiner at the hospital accused of taking Cory Chapin, 46, a patient, out of the Little Rock psychiatric inpatient facility, police said.

Messer was spotted on surveillance video around 8:20 a.m. Tuesday using her access to the hospital’s forensic unit and walking Chapin out of the building, police said.They were spotted leaving the area in a blue Mazda 3S Grand Touring with a Arkansas license plate number 502RBD.

Messer is wanted on a misdemeanor charge of aiding an unauthorized departure. The hospital said Messer will be fired once located. Police referred to Messer as a psychologist, though the hospital’s website named her as a psychological examiner for forensics.

It’s unclear what the relationship is between Messer and Chapin. Messer appeared to post comments on Chapin’s Facebook page about two months ago, according to Arkansas Online.

Chapin was acquitted in 2015 of kidnapping, theft, unauthorized use of a vehicle and drug possession charges by reason of mental illness or defect. He had told authorities God said to kidnap a woman who cut his hair, Arkansas Online reported.

Chapin was committed to the hospital’s forensic unit, used to assess and treat patients with mental illnesses who are accused of committing a crime. A doctor said he posted as a “moderate risk” for violence without treatment.

But by February 2016, 46-year-old had engineered an escape. Chapin fled Arkansas after receiving a 48-hour pass to leave with his father. He was found in Las Vegas last year and returned to the hospital in November.

Messer is a licensed independent psychological examiner by the Arkansas Psychology Board, according to Arkansas Online. Messer has worked for the Department of Human Services for more than nine years, state records show.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.