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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 19, 2009

Kauai killer tries again for release from State Hospital, is denied

By Paul Curtis
The Garden Island

LIHU‘E, Kauai — For the second time in 13 months, a Kaua‘i judge has denied a motion to allow Raymond Earl Ard unescorted off-grounds privileges from the Hawai‘i State Hospital on O‘ahu.

Ard was found guilty of first-degree attempted murder, then acquitted by reason of insanity, in May 2006, after a non-jury trial in a case involving the murder of Dr. Jon Kerns of Waimea Valley, and the attempted murder of Richard “Kai” Iwatate, Ard’s stepson.

Kerns was allegedly stabbed to death by Ard in February 2005 in Waimea Valley, and Iwatate was allegedly stabbed and injured by Ard in the same incident.

Saying there are still unanswered questions about Ard’s diagnosis and potential danger to the community if he is allowed unescorted off-campus privileges, 5th Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe on Wednesday denied Ard’s motion.

Watanabe was the judge during Ard’s trial, and also denied a similar motion in November 2008.

“I don’t feel that the court is fully informed,” Watanabe said, ordering a panel of three doctors to examine Ard and deliver to the court a diagnosis and risk assessment.

Ard, 44, continues to be represented by state Deputy Public Defender John Calma.

Calma said Ard has been working a few days a week for the past two years at a golf course near the Kane‘ohe hospital, and takes a public bus ride lasting about 15 minutes to and from work, with state hospital staff as escorts.

Several other hospital patients also work at the golf course, and Ard has no history of any problems either at work or at the hospital, Calma said.

Calma moved to exclude the sister of Kerns, Helen Egy, from the teleconference that included two of Ard’s doctors at the state hospital, but Watanabe allowed Egy to participate, saying “the victim always has a say.”

One doctor called Ard a “low-to-moderate” risk, and another called him “low” risk, adding that Ard goes off-campus several times a week, escorted, to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings and other events, with no problems.

Egy has another opinion.

“He is a murderer in the morning. He is a murderer in the daytime. He is a murderer in the evening,” she said. “He will do and say anything to get out of the hospital,” and is a danger to all if he’s left alone.

Egy said Ard should be prosecuted for the attempted murder of Iwatate and Claudia Kerns, wife of Dr. Jon Kerns.

Egy also scolded those who would fight for Ard’s unescorted release, asking which one of the “do-good-ers” will be murdered or responsible for murder if Ard kills again.

Ard has his chance to speak.

“It was an unconscionable thing to attack my best friend, a father figure, and my son, but that isn’t who I am today.”

He was always honest about everything that happened, was exposed to chemicals and was “completely delusional” at the time of the attack, and has concern and remorse for his family, the Kerns family, and all his friends on Kaua‘i, calling the island “a place I love,” said Ard.

Dr. James Hall, a state Department of Health psychologist also in private practice, told Watanabe that the question of Ard’s true diagnosis needs to be answered, and that his risk level assessed to ascertain his “dangerousness if unescorted in the community.”

Watanabe agreed.

Calma argued unsuccessfully that Ard should be granted unescorted off-campus privileges for the purposes of going to and from work only, and that a compliance hearing be scheduled within three to six months.

Watanabe said she shares Egy’s concerns about what will happen should Ard be released unsupervised and become angry in public.

“These are significant historical items,” Watanabe said of the murder and attempted-murder charges.