Friday, January 1, 2010

"He lives in the woods across from Hi-Way Liquors ... about eight miles from the airport

That Calvin Cox would wind up living homeless in a forest should come as no surprise to anyone. The crime he allegedly committed -- "stealing, attempting to fly and crashing a fixed-wing single-engine Piper PA-18-150 plane" -- is unusal. But the fact that he will likely be sent to prison, because he had untreated schizophrenia is not. That is the conclusion for tens of thousands of Americans stricken with serious mental illness every year.

The Frederick (Md.) News-Post gives the details:
A man charged with trying to steal an airplane from Frederick Municipal Airport remains at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center. District Judge W. Milnor Roberts did not change the $10,000 bail amount for Calvin Craig Cox, 51, during a bail review Tuesday afternoon. Assistant Public Defender Roland Brooks had asked for Cox's bail to be lowered.

Cox has been charged with stealing, attempting to fly and crashing a fixed-wing single-engine Piper PA-18-150 plane about 2:30 a.m. Monday, according to the Frederick Police Department. The plane never left the ground and was found on a nearby runway, leaning forward on its nose with damage to the fuselage and propeller. Cox, who was found in the woods, has been charged with theft, second- and fourth-degree burglary and trespassing.

When Roberts asked Cox for his address, he told the judge he lived in the woods across from Hi-Way Liquors in the 6900 block of Baltimore National Pike. The store is about eight miles from the airport. Brooks told Cox he was entitled to ask for a preliminary hearing if he wanted one.

"If it's in my advantage, yes," Cox said. "I've never been through this before."

Although this was the first time Mr. Cox was arrested for a crime, it's not his first brush with the law. Just two weeks ago his ex-wife won a restraining order against him. Presumably, her judgment about Calvin was not wrong:
On Monday, Cox was served with a temporary protective order by his former wife, Therese Ann Schooley. The order was granted Dec. 18. In it, Schooley claims Cox is a dangerous schizophrenic. A hearing on the protective order is set for Tuesday.

Many years ago, there were activists who uncovered poor conditions and maltreatment of the mentally ill in many state hospitals. They worked first to improve conditions and largely succeeded. Most of those abusive situations had been remedied by the time the activists change their tact, to shutter most public mental hospitals. They succeeded in that effort, as well, as hospital after hospital was shut.

But where are they now? Where are the activists fighting for the estimated nine hundred thousand mentally ill who have wound up homeless or in prison? Is it not time we consider the experiment of closing their hospitals a failure?

If Calvin Cox had been forced into treatment for his disease, he would not have been living in the woods and he would not have tried to steal an airplane. In all likelihood, with some supervision to make sure he was taking his medications, Mr. Cox could have continued living a productive life as an outpatient.

1 comment:

John LaTorre said...

I know that this comes late in the day, but I have been wondering what became of Mr. Cox.

I worked with him in the early 1980s. We were the first two employees of a start-up company that manufactured hang gliders. We were hired away from another manufacturer with whom we were working by a third former employee who decided to strike out on his own. The new business was successful, but Calvin left after a few years because he was homesick for Maryland, where he had lived before.

Calvin and I were both intermediate hang glider pilots and often flew together to flying sites all around California. He was a funny, caring man, and we became good friends. If he had any mental illness then, he covered it well.

There doesn't seem to have been any follow-up in the news about what has happened with him since his release from prison in 2010. I hope he is getting the treatment now that he needs, and that some measure of peace is being restored to his life. If you would be kind enough to follow up on his story, I'd be grateful, because I think there's more to the story. Please feel free to email me if you have further news.