Letter of Thanks from Mother of Young Man with Schizophrenia on Death Row

Brian... Your readers have been absolutely astounding at writing/sending extremely astute letters about mental illnesses and my son Brent Ullery and his death penalty status. Letters have come from the U.S., Germany, Israel, Australia, England, Scotland, and South Africa...and each one seems to contain yet more information or another good phrase or perspective. But, as one 82-year-old e-mailer pointed out: "I feel like I know you." That was the similar vein in all--people who must deal with these diseases know each other in only a few lines of communication. How will I ever thank them? They mean so much. After Brent's final sentencing, I plan to answer each individually.

We could still use more letters up until final sentencing at 4 p.m. on June 30 if any of your readers still care to write. They ARE making a difference, even if it might not look like it on the surface. They are educating some influential people and are being bound into Brent's permanent appeals file. Some have asked for more details, such as...

* A top priority: During the trial, Brent told the family and friends of the "victim" in a very broken and shaken voice that he sincerely apologized though he didn't know a way to do that adequately; that he knew no way to repay them "because my life isn't worth nearly as much as hers, so even killing me won't be a fair trade." The parents of this lady went to see him at the jail and also wrote to him that they accepted his apology. She has a son, however, in his late 20's who only met his mother a few months before her death. She had given him up for adoption when she was 20, and it is apparent Brent has robbed him of a relationship he would have liked to have had.

* Brent's current status: Jury recommended the death penalty in April with the judge still having the power to change that but he apparently has no record of doing so. Final sentencing was unexpectedly delayed until 4 p.m., June 30, because doubts arose about whether the trial was held within "speedy trial" limits. Those doubts continue but the judge has ruled that they won't make any difference now; but must be entered on appeals.

* Crime background: Four years ago, Brent Ullery, 19 at the time, went on a three-day crime spree that included killing a woman in Norman, Okla., then fleeing to Colorado, where he was apprehended by police. He had no prior convictions, no problems w/drugs or alcohol...in fact had been an honor student all his life, was on full scholarship/National Merit at University of Oklahoma, Norman, at the time; loved fishing, was great to our 90-year-old friend, president of his senior class at the new state honor school for students gifted in science and math, etc.

* Trial: Prosecution based most of its evidence on a confession by Brent, taped by Colorado police, in which Brent (obviously psychotic) said he wanted the death penalty 18 times...even asking, "if I say this, will I get the death penalty?"

* Illness background: At time of crime, he was under the care of the University of Oklahoma's Goddard Health Center. I did not know then what they did know; but discovered that his counselor there (in process of earning her Ph.D.) had been told by Brent that he was both homicidal and suicidal...twice...and that he had a "plan." I've been told by 9 out of 10 professionals since that that should have been enough to EOD (Emergency Order of Detention) Brent on the spot. But that was not done; nor followed up on. Instead, the counselor suggested he see someone else. Not much of this was brought out during the trial, and I believe I have not heard it all yet. At that time, a psychiatrist had authorized Prozac for Brent, which he took for approx. 2 1/2 weeks; said he was schizoid, but did not order an anti-psychotic.

* Diagnosis: Various state and defense psychiatrists/psychologists have diagnosed Brent with schizoaffective disorder (combination of schizophrenia and manic-depression) or with major depression with psychotic features. Both are extremely similar...even though now that we've had a chance to watch him over long periods, the diagnosis at least with the current DSM-4 is most likely schizoaffective disorder.

* Treatment: Brent received no treatment for 2 1/2 years in the criminal system. Currently, he gets maximum dosages of Trilafon, Wellbutrin, and Cogentin. He has responded. Hallucinations are under control but has side effects, some of which could probably be improved upon if he would be given a try at such newer drugs as Olanzapine, Risperdal, or Clozapine. But in my visits to many of our Oklahoma prison facilities; these newer drugs are rarely available.

* Truth is: Brent did NOT have control when he apparently killed the lady. He had other times he had no control either. But those were not presented in the trial. He knew something was wrong with his mind long before he shared it; he was having voices; seeing a "faceless man" that scared him immensely. He gave many of us clues...crying for help...and so many of us--me at the top of the list--did not know the signs of mental illness, nor what to do. The result is, not one good life but two good lives have been wasted.

* Our plea to the judge right now: Rather than send Brent to death row at McAlester, Okla., where he is NOT likely to get adequate treatment for his mental illness, PLEASE send him to the San Carlos Correctional Facility for the mentally impaired in Pueblo, Colo. where he was eventually sent and spent 1 1/2 years before coming to Oklahoma.

THANK YOU ALL from the bottom of my heart. I still love my son very much and am grateful he is still alive. He has been through so much and has so much ahead. He makes me think of the thousands of others...who go through the worst of situations to finally get appropriate treatment...or go without. When will people learn that the brain gets ill just like any other part of the human anatomy...and that we CAN prevent this wasting of lives?


Jackie Dahlgren

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