A Rock Island man found unfit in August to stand trial in the deaths of his grandmother and uncle has yet to be transported to an Illinois Department of Human Services for restoration treatment, one of his attorneys said Thursday.
Assistant Public Defender Matthew Durbin asked that the case of John P. Conwell be continued until Nov. 16 to allow him time to prepare additional filings to hold DHS in contempt of court.
Durbin said after a brief hearing Thursday at the Rock Island County Justice Center that the filings are an attempt to force the state to take Conwell out of jail and provide him with treatment.
“It puts them on notice that they have to comply with the statute and hopefully we get some kind of resolution to our current situation,” he said. “Not long term, but at least therapy, rather than being in a holding cell.”
Conwell, 40, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Eleanor "Petty" and Steve Conwell, 90 and 69, respectively.
Police were called at 7:54 p.m. May 14 to the 1200 block of 29th Street for a welfare check and found their bodies.
Prosecutors claim in charging documents that John Conwell "knowingly and without justification" struck Eleanor and Steve Conwell in the head and cut their throats.
John Conwell was arrested a day later in Davenport.
He was found unfit for trial Aug. 8 and Judge Frank Fuhr ordered that he be remanded to the custody of DHS.
State statute requires DHS to submit a written report to the judge, prosecutors and the defense within 30 days of the judge's order.
The report must include an assessment of the treatment facility's ability to provide treatment to the defendant and whether there is a substantial probability that the defendant can attain fitness within a determined amount of time.
Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos said there are eight inmates currently awaiting transport to DHS. He estimated that nearly 15 inmates have been transported to DHS since Jan. 1.
“I think the easy explanation is bed space,” Bustos said when asked about the delay. “They have to have a place to take them to and so they sit in the county jail until a bed opens up.”
He said that this has been an ongoing problem that can be draining on jail staff.
“The amount of time it takes to get them into treatment has gotten longer,” he said. “But, I think that is just for the lack of funds that are available for it through the state.”
One of the inmates that also is awaiting transport is Cartier J. Leflore, 35, who was found unfit to stand trial on Oct. 5. He is charged with aggravated battery-great bodily harm to a peace officer, aggravated battery, and disarming a peace officer.
Rock Island police were called at 6:17 p.m. Sept. 21 to the 200 block of 21st Street for a report of a domestic disturbance.
An officer on scene tried to arrest LeFlore for domestic battery, but Leflore assaulted the officer, according to police.
The officer was knocked unconscious, and Leflore took the officer's stun gun before fleeing the apartment, according to police.
He was arrested a short time later after officers subdued him with a stun gun.
Durbin on Thursday also said he also will file a contempt motion in Leflore’s case. A status hearing in his case also is set for Nov. 16.
Neither Conwell nor Leflore appeared in court for Thurday’s hearings.
Durbin said the goal is to “get everyone to a point where they can assist in their own defense and have their case adjudicated with all their rights intact.”
Holding mentally ill inmates without the proper treatment to help them attain fitness “doesn’t do anything for them,” he said.
“It’s to the point where our relationship with the client isn’t progressing at all because of the mental illness,” he said. “At least this gets us to the next step where we can talk to them and let them know what the process is."