Richard Greist gets new off-ground privileges

In this file photo, Richard Greist, center, leaves the Chester County Courthouse with friends and family after his annual attempt to be discharged from Norristown State Hospital.

WEST CHESTER — In ordering that killer Richard Greist remain involuntarily committed to Norristown State Hospital for another year, the judge overseeing his case nevertheless increased, by a small increment, his unsupervised off-ground privileges for 2019.

In an order signed Jan. 30, Judge Edward Griffith allowed Greist to have one 48-hour pass every three months from the hospital where he has been confined in a secure housing unit for more than three decades after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the brutal death of his pregnant wife and their unborn son.

Previously, Greist had been granted unsupervised trips off the grounds for a 12-hour period every month, plus three 24 hour passes every quarter. The new privilege means that Greist will be able to spend a total of 32 days outside the Norristown facility on his own.

He has other privileges that were laid out in Griffith’s four-page order, as well as a variety of restrictions that, if not followed, could see his off-ground privileges withdrawn by the court. In the years that Greist has been allowed to attend church services, meet with his personal psychiatrist, and conduct other personal business under the approval and supervision of the hospital staff.

The annual review of Greist’s current mental health and the terms under which he is committed to Norristown had been delayed for several months in order to accommodate the various psychiatrists involved in the case. The Chester County District Attorney’s Office has continued to oppose any new freedoms for Greist, maintaining that he remains a danger to the community.

At his hearing last year, the psychiatrist who oversees Greist’s case and treatment at the state hospital, Dr. Consolacion Alcantara, once again told Griffith that Greist is severely mentally disabled and is in need of continued treatment, meeting the legal standard for the judge to order his involuntary commitment.

At some point in the process last year, the hospital had indicated that it might be willing to begin a review of how Greist could be formally released from his commitment, but withdrew that suggestion after consultation with the attorney for the county’s Department of Mental Health, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Brice Laverty of Downingtown, and Deputy District Attorney Thomas Ost-Prisco.

Greist for years has maintained that the psychosis that led him to fatally stab his 26-year-old wife Janice Greist and their unborn eight-month-old son is in remission and that he should be released from the hospital. His personal psychiatrist, Dr. Ira Brenner, has urged the court to begin a process of getting him ready for release, while a prosecution-hired psychiatrist, Dr. Barbara Ziv, has argued against it.

The restrictions that Griffith put on Greist’s off-grounds trips include that he be accompanied by an escort from the hospital to his therapy sessions with Brenner, and that any of his other trips be approved by his treatment team at the hospital, which has the authority to limit the time period of any pass or place other limits on them.

The details of the off-ground trips must be provided to the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, as well as the Crime Victims Center of Chester County, which acts as an advocate for the remaining survivors of his attack, his two adult daughters, and local police departments. He is forbidden from having any contact with his daughters or their families.

Griffith must also approve of any planned outing.

There has never been an incident of violence of disorderly conduct by Greist in the years that he has been making supervised and unsupervised off-ground trips.

In May 1978, Greist, now 67, flew into a drug-fueled psychotic rage and stabbed his wife, to death with a screwdriver in their East Coventry home. He cut her body open and killed and mutilated the baby, then stabbed one of his two daughters in the eye and attacked his grandmother with a butcher knife.

He was arrested by police in the yard of his home, shirtless and splattered with blood.

At a non-jury trial the following year, Greist was found not guilty by reason of insanity by a Common Pleas Court judge after a defense expert testified that he was suffering from psychosis at the time of the attacks. Because of that finding, he will never have to serve time in prison, but has been involuntarily committed to Norristown for 38 years.

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan, call 610-696-1544.

To contact Staff Writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

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