Accused cop killer may soon go free after three-year stay at mental hospital

May 9, 2013 4:37:53 PM PDT
After three years in a mental hospital, a man accused of killing one police officer and injuring another person could soon be a free man.

Hung Truong was charged in 2008 for driving through a police barricade and hitting two officers. The incident killed 47-year-old Gary Gryder and shattered the left side of Officer Joe Pyland's body.

Doctors say patients who are insane when they commit a crime can become safe members of society but Pyland tells us the man who killed his colleague should never get out.

"I think this is a travesty that this guy thinks he can get out at this point. Does that mean that Gary Gryder, my good friend's life, is worth five years?" Pyland said.

In 2010, a judge found Truong not guilty by reason of insanity. Now, after three years in Rusk State Hospital for the Mentally Ill, a panel of state mental health experts is recommending his release.

Prosecutors say that's a bad idea.

"He operates under the instruction of voices in his head, voices that he hears, that he talks to," Harris County District Attorney's Office Spokesperson Sara Marie Kinney said.

John Hiller Shank also reported hearing voices. A court order released him from Rusk Hospital after just a year and a half. Shank stabbed his mother to death with a kitchen knife at his parents' River Oaks home in December 2010.

Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, records show the then-UT student not only heard voices, but feared that his food was being poisoned and his organs harvested. He now lives at a recovery residence in the Heights. He receives outpatient treatment and is on community supervision for life.

Dr. Richard Pesikoff regularly evaluates the criminally insane, looking for certain signs.

"History of oratory hallucinations, history of getting instructions what to do," he said.

Dr. Pesikoff says even patients who've killed others can re-enter society .

"They're not symptomatic, that they're not demonstrating any of the behaviors that they showed before," Pesikoff said.

But to officer Pyland, that brings little comfort.

"How on Earth can this possibly happen?" Pyland said.

Truong's next hearing is May 21. Officer Pyland says he'll be there.
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