WAUKESHA, Wis. — After successfully pleading insanity while on trial for killing two police officers in 1975, a sane Wisconsin man who spent 38 years in a mental hospital learned Friday he'd be a free man within 10 days.
Alan Randall's impending release comes after years of petitioning; a jury decided this spring he should be freed. A judge signed an agreement Friday that Randall, 55, will leave the institution by Sept. 30, giving corrections officials time to outfit him with GPS monitoring.
He was going to be released in August, but the widow and sister of one of Randall's victims, Rocky Atkins, didn't want him to return to Waukesha County, where the killings happened. The state said Friday it arranged for Randall to live in a county about 100 miles away.
Atkins' widow, Karen Herbert, said she was pleased with the arrangement, especially with a stipulation precluding Randall from even traveling to the county without approval.
"We'd asked for that years ago. I'm so glad they remembered," she said.
Randall will stay at a Madison mental hospital until he is released. On Friday, he walked out of the courtroom with his attorney, Craig Powell, who declined to comment.
Randall was 16 when he burglarized a rural Waukesha County police station and gunned down the officers as they drove up.
He was tried as an adult and convicted of the homicides. But during a second phase of the trial, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity – a plea that prosecutors didn't challenge. Instead of serving time in prison, Randall was committed indefinitely to a mental hospital.
The doctors who treated him eventually concluded he wasn't mentally ill, and since he never required anti-psychotic medication, several experts said it was likely he was sane all along.
His behavior in the institution had been so exemplary that he'd earned privileges including the right to work a full-time job at an art gallery. Waukesha County prosecutor Brad Schimel speculated that if Randall had shown the same model behavior in prison, he might have been paroled after 17 to 20 years – as early as 1992.
Randall began petitioning for his freedom in 1989 but his requests were repeatedly rejected as the judge wondered whether his homicidal trigger was truly gone. Finally this spring, a jury recommended Randall be released.
Last month's hearing was postponed after the state Department of Health Services said it needed more time to find living arrangements outside of Waukesha County. One of Randall's former co-workers in Neenah has since agreed to rent him a room, DHS spokesman Matt Ziegler said Friday. The state will pay the rent.
A case manager will meet with Randall several times a week, and a contracted agency will check in with him daily to make sure he is adjusting properly, Ziegler said.
Randall even has his old job lined up at the Hang Up Gallery of Fine Art in Neenah, about 100 miles from Madison. Gallery president Bill Casper said he initially hired Randall in 1986 because he believes in giving people second chances.
To help Randall ease back into life as a free man, Casper plans to first have him work behind the scenes doing maintenance, repairs, welding and woodwork.
Casper spoke to Randall by phone immediately after the hearing and said Randall was happy to have the court hearings behind him.
Several years ago, Randall reached out to his victims' families for mediation efforts. Herbert turned him down because she suspected he was angling for an early release. She said Friday she'd be willing to hear him out.
"I guess I'd want to hear what he has to say," she said. "I have questions too, but it would depend on what he said."
Casper, who said Randall has expressed remorse privately, volunteered to arrange such a meeting someday.
"You can't change what happened. But you can find a way to move forward in a positive way," he said.
Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.