- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 18, 2014

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) - The father of a Deep River man who admitted killing his mother at Christmastime is questioning how his emotionally troubled son, who was ordered by a judge to be on a suicide watch, could seriously harm himself while being held at Garner Correctional Institution.

Robert Rankin said state officials told him last month that his 23-year-old son Robert O. Rankin, known as Bobby, had an “accident” and jumped over a second-floor railing last month. Dennis McMahon, the young Rankin’s attorney, said officials told him it was a suicide attempt.

“I’m very concerned with the fact he was on suicide watch and how he ended up in this situation,” the elder Rankin said on Tuesday, following his son’s latest court appearance.

Bobby Rankin, who is diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia, appeared in Middletown Superior Court in a wheelchair, wearing a metal halo on his head and a cast on his right arm. McMahon said his client damaged three cervical discs in the fall, which he said could have killed his client.

McMahon said Bobby Rankin told him that he attempted to kill himself because he wanted to see his late mother, 45-year-old Margaret Rohner.

A Department of Correction spokesman said he could not comment on Bobby Rankin’s condition because he hadn’t yet seen an incident report. The Associated Press has requested a copy of the Feb. 12 report under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Bobby Rankin is facing a murder charge but has yet to enter a plea. His case was postponed Tuesday until June 3. McMahon said he wants to get his client independently evaluated by a psychiatrist, adding how he doesn’t think his client understands what is happening to him.

McMahon said his client is being housed at MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, where he is being treated in the prison hospital and receiving “very good medical care.”

During Tuesday’s court appearance, Bobby Rankin softly answered yes to a couple of the judge’s questions. He no longer has the bushy beard he wore at his arraignment.

Police have said Bobby Rankin admitted to viciously attacking Rohner on Dec. 26 with a fireplace poker and knife, leaving her eviscerated body in the living room of her Deep River home.

Friends of Rohner have described how the divorced mother struggled to find appropriate mental health care for her only son, who developed psychiatric problems about four years ago. Friends also said Rohner had told officials at River Valley Services, a state-run voluntary respite program for adults, that her son was not taking his psychiatric medications and had asked that he be hospitalized.

The friends said River Valley staff told Rohner that they wanted to wait until after Christmas to address the issues.

Robert Rankin picked up the couple’s son a couple days before Christmas to take him home for the holidays. He said he wasn’t warned by staff about any issues concerning Bobby Rankin. While not confirming Bobby Rankin was a client, state mental health Commissioner Patricia Rehmer recently told The Associated Press that she’s satisfied with her agency’s process for determining whether mentally ill young adults are healthy enough to leave state respite programs.

Bobby Rankin’s case comes as state lawmakers consider ways to improve mental health services for young adults. A task force on Tuesday voted on a list of recommendations for the General Assembly to consider. But considering the legislature is set to adjourn May 7, it’s unclear how many, if any, will be approved this year.


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