Some good news on the civil liberties front. You probably won't read
about it in the newspapers or see it on CNN, however.
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Shirley Allen released
and LESLEY ROGERS
ROBY - With an uneasy OK from prosecutors, Shirley Allen was returned
to her home Tuesday with far less uproar than the day she was taken
Christian County State's Attorney Teresa Brown agreed to a request
from Allen's attorneys to end the 51-year-old widow's 47-day stay in
mental hospitals. That request followed a psychiatrist's finding that
Allen wasn't dangerous - to herself or anyone else.
"The state's not saying she's going to be OK," Brown said. "What we're
saying is that, based on this doctor's report, it doesn't make a whole
lot of sense to continue hospitalization for her."
Regardless of prosecutors' reasoning, Allen's court-appointed guardian
Lindsey Reese was content that Allen was back home instead of amassing
more medical bills.
"She was relieved of a heavy financial burden and will be home for the
holidays," said Reese, who has estimated Allen's medical and legal
bills at roughly $50,000.
No one from Allen's family - the people who went to a judge asking for
the psychiatric evaluation in September - was notified of her release.
"I'm very upset about this," said Byron Dugger, Allen's brother who
lives in Arkansas.
"I didn't know it was going to happen. Nobody in my family knew it was
going to happen. We're not happy about the way this was handled."
Allen was released at noon Tuesday after a morning hearing and, after
a brief stay at Reese's Taylorville office, arrived about 3 p.m. at
the single-story home in rural Roby from where she fended off state
police with a shotgun for 39 days.
"She was really happy at the decision," Reese said. "She was really
looking forward to getting home and cleaning up her house."
Reese pulled into the driveway while a second car ferried Allen to the
rear of the house. She entered quickly while Reese gave a brief press
Allen could then be seen cleaning the house, one way to save the
$2,900 estimated cost to eliminate the pepper-spray odor lingering
from the standoff.
Allen is expected to spend the next couple of days finishing reading a
large box of letters from well-wishers. Reese said she plans to write
thank-you's to most people and will use the many canned goods and
bottles of water sent by supporters.
Allen called her mother Tuesday night once she got home, said Dugger,
who plans to meet with the judge and Allen's lawyers Thursday to find
out why she was released.
"They had a good conversation, my mother said. She sounded fine,"
Dugger said. ''She said she was happy to be home."
Allen did not spend her first night of freedom at home but was
planning to stay with friends to avoid the media, Dugger said.
"No trespassing" signs were posted on the front lawn and in a window
of the residence. Reese warned anyone who might approach that he would
call police and prosecute trespassers.
For a neighborhood that hosted up to 75 troopers during the standoff,
it was unusually bare of any police during the homecoming. That's
partly because sheriff's deputies didn't know for sure that Allen was
coming home until told by a reporter.
"We were totally in the dark," said investigator Bob Patrick, who
oversaw the sheriff's office Tuesday in the absence of the sheriff and
Allen's shotgun and ammunition remain confiscated, according to state
police spokesman Mark McDonald. Troopers did leave behind two pistols,
one an antique, he said. Neither has ammunition.
The surprise release follows more than a month of legal maneuvers by
Reese and defense attorney Bill Conroy of Athens. In the latest move
last week, the pair got Allen's committal case moved to Christian
The case was first set in Sangamon County because Allen was initially
sent to St. John's Hospital in Springfield, but state law allows for a
transfer to the defendant's home county.
Sangamon County State's Attorney Patrick Kelley said Allen's lawyers
had asked a judge to allow her go home while the case was in his
jurisdiction, but the judge denied that motion. For one thing, no
medical authority had come forward to say that Allen posed no threat.
"It's a different set of facts (now) from what we had here," Kelley
He said one factor in the case is still on appeal to the Fourth
District Appellate Court, though that appeal may now be moot.
In Tuesday's Christian County hearing, Allen was released based on a
mental health examination by Dr. Bruce Feldman of Springfield, who
said she's not a danger to herself or others, which is one legal
guideline for being committed.
Allen's release came on the condition that she submit to an evaluation
by a court-appointed psychiatrist within 30 days. Feldman was hired by
And even if the court-appointed psychiatrist finds Allen perfectly
fit, she could still face jail time.
Although police have shunned the idea of criminal charges, Brown said
she's still mulling over whether to charge Allen for her actions
during the standoff. Those actions included Allen allegedly firing at
troopers three times and shooting a police dog, who survived.
Brown said a decision on criminal charges won't be made until after
the committal process.
"I'm still looking at the (police) reports right now," she said. "I
can't really say it hinges on any one thing. It's just going to be a
consideration of all the facts and
State police took Tuesday's news in stride.
"After 47 days in a hospital under a doctor's care, it's not
surprising that her condition has improved and she was released,"
"All anybody ever wanted was for Shirley to live a normal life.
Hopefully, after all this time she's spent in the hospital, she's able
to do that."
But just what kind of care Allen has received remains a mystery. By
state law, Allen can refuse treatment, something her family has said
she's done throughout her hospital stay.
Reese could not say what type of treatment she received during the
course of her hospitalization or if she is currently taking any
medication. She has taken anti-depressants in the past.
Reese said after Allen gets settled back into her home, they may
consider interviews with the media later this week.
"She's overwhelmed right now," said Reese, who expects to end his job
as Allen's legal guardian soon, possibly before her next 30-day
evaluation. Reese's legal fees are paid through Allen's estate, and he
said he cannot disclose how much he is paid.
Once she was freed, Allen spent part of the day at the office Reese
shares with his father and law partner, Daniel Reese. The elder Reese
said he was amazed at the amount of media attention paid to Allen,
whom he called "a very private person."
"I told her, 'You're like Princess Diana,' " he said.
"She said, 'But Princess Diana's dead.' "
A9 Copyright 1997, The State Journal-Register
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