Once ruled insane, 'Red Bull' smotherer could go free - WFLA News Channel 8

Once ruled insane, 'Red Bull' smotherer could go free

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Stephen Coffeen Stephen Coffeen

On the 3 year anniversary of smothering his elderly father in St. Petersburg, Stephen Coffeen took a big step toward regaining his freedom.

In a Pinellas courtroom today, Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley signed an order to release Coffeen from the state mental hospital in Chattahoochee, and send him to a residential facility in Tarpon Springs. "Both sides have the opportunity to ask for additional doctors, but were all convinced this is the one and only legal answer so I'll go ahead and sign the order granting the conditional release," said Ley.

In 2009, Coffeen suffocated his father, 83 year old Robert Coffeen, with a couch pillow. At the time the case became known as the Red Bull case because one doctor said the drinking of Red Bull and sleep deprivation contributed to Coffeen's mental state.

Last year, at least four mental health experts agreed Coffeen was not guilty , by reason of insanity. Instead of going on trial for murder, he was sent to the mental institution and re-evaluated every 6 months.

Now  his doctors at the state hospital say Coffeen no longer meets the criteria for involuntary commitment.  Also, two of the court's mental health experts agree he is ready for a non-lockdown treatment facility.

Coffeen's brother, Thomas Coffeen disagreed with the insanity defense last year, and can't understand how his brother can be released after just three years."I feel the judicial system is letting me down and potentially letting Pinellas county down, because I don't know what he'll do, I think it's a bad idea."

When Coffeen spoke to the judge in court today he said he was afraid for the safety of his family.

Judge Ley explained there was no other legal choice and said, "There was never any threat to your children." Coffeen replied, "There was never any threat made to my father either."

At the inpatient treatment facility, Stephen Coffeen will be allowed to come and go , with permission. If he violates the rules, he will end up back in court.    

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