Man's parents want to care for son after terminal cancer diagnosis; judge could reconsider decision

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SUSSEX - Todd Van Lare, a mentally ill Sussex man convicted 12 years ago of killing his wife, will not be able to spend the waning months of his life in the care of his family, a Waukesha County circuit judge ruled recently.

However, that may change if Van Lare's health, now gravely threatened by an incurable cancer, takes a turn for the worse.

That was the decision Judge Ralph Ramirez made Monday, Feb. 27, when he denied Van Lare's petition for conditional release from the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, where Van Lare has been committed since a judge found him criminally insane in August 2005 after a trial.

Van Lare slit his wife Sherry's throat while the two were in bed together on Nov. 1, 2004, in their home on Hastings Lane. He then barricaded himself in the basement of his home with the couple's two children, then ages 1 and 2, and called the FBI, asking to speak with a female agent.

STUDY: Implications of insanity in state's 'slayer' statute

Van Lare believed his wife was having an affair with a former co-worker, according to court records. He quit his job at the village of Menomonee Falls Public Works Department two weeks before the slaying.

He was charged with first-degree homicide and failure to comply with a law enforcement officer, and was found at his trial to be delusional and paranoid. Under state law, he was eligible to petition for release six months after he was sentenced.

According to court records, family members took Van Lare to several hospitals and clinics in the area regarding his mental health shortly before the murder in late October.

Van Lare told mental health professionals at both Waukesha Memorial and Aurora hospitals that he needed medication, and Waukesha Memorial mental health professionals told him he should be hospitalized.

12 months to live

During his commitment, Van Lare was diagnosed with stage four gastric adenocarcinoma — an incurable stomach cancer — and given about 12-13 months to live with treatment, according to a letter from his oncologist, Dr. Nataliya Uboha.

In a separate letter to the court, filed in mid-January, Van Lare's parents implored Ramirez to approve the conditional release of their son.

"We have just been shocked by this diagnosis as you can imagine," they wrote. "Our wish is to have Todd receive a compassionate release now to let him live his life out to the end around his family.

"(We) really cannot think of anything good that could come out of this cancer diagnosis except (Todd) ... being able to spend the rest of his short life with his family who love him so dearly."

Prosecutors apparently think differently, and had a state forensic psychologist testify on their behalf at two recent hearings before Ramirez denied the petition.

But, court records show, Ramirez did not eliminate the possibility of a future release for Van Lare.

He said he would allow Van Lare's attorney, Chris Bailey, to reconsider the decision should there be a significant change in his client's health.

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