'Extremely rare' plea in Sandy murder has family calling for changes for mentally ill

Man who killed elderly woman with golf club declared not guilty by reason of insanity

Published: Monday, May 12 2014 6:05 p.m. MDT

Kevin Cuillard is headed to a state mental hospital for brutally beating an 85-year-old woman to death. In Orem, Monday, May 12, 2014, his wife, Angela Cuillard, said she agreed her husband was mentally ill but worries his sentence won't be enough.

Michael Radice, Deseret News

WEST JORDAN — Most of the time, Kevin Cuillard — who suffers from bipolar disorder — was an "absolutely normal," loving father and husband who held down a demanding, well-paying job for close to a decade.

But, his wife added, he occasionally would "do something that was completely bizarre." Twice before, he'd had a psychotic break, including one in 2012 when Angela Cuillard said he roamed their Sandy neighborhood with a loaded gun.

Then, as before, the man was hospitalized for a week and was released.

Now she believes her husband is in a sense getting away with murder.

"We had the next event, which was the horrific crime that he committed in June of 2013," Angela Cuillard said Monday, referring to the night of June 20, when Kevin Cuillard attacked her grandmother with a golf club and killed 85-year-old Arla Carolyn Christensen.

"She was a very special person. She was very kind, very compassionate — she didn't deserve to die that way."

Cuillard was charged with murder, a first-degree felony. But Monday, a judge made an "extremely rare" determination that Cuillard is not guilty of murder by reason of insanity — a decision that will send him to the Utah State Hospital for treatment.

Angela Cuillard said she hopes her case demonstrates that families of those who suffer from mental illness need more help than they're getting — perhaps some kind of legal authority to make sure loved ones with mental illness comply with treatment.

"It is just a nightmare to find help and get the support that families need," she said. "I would like to see something happen with this whole mental health system that supports the family members."

Police were called to 10164 S. Bannor Hill Road (1985 East) around 10 p.m. that June night by Angela Cuillard who said her husband was having a psychotic episode and was beating her grandmother with a golf club. She told police her husband had a "history of severe mental illness" and had not been sleeping in recent days or taking his medication.

Kevin Cuillard apparently went into the garage, came out with the club and then walked "with purpose" toward the bedroom, the police report states. "His wife describes his face as being very intense. … She followed him through the house and asked him what he was doing."

Cuillard walked into Christensen's room, locked the door behind him and assaulted her, police said. When officers arrived, they found Cuillard still in Christensen's room.

He surrendered without incident. When interviewed by detectives, Cuillard said he had "Grandma's blood" on him, the report states, and officers noted that Kevin Cuillard "appeared to be suffering from a psychotic break."

Angela Cuillard said the interview she gave that night, while she was emotional and upset, was the only one she was ever asked to give. After charges were filed, she said the family hoped that Kevin Cuillard, whose mental illness they readily acknowledge, would be committed to the Utah State Hospital — but for a longer term.

She believes he should serve a specific number of years in the mental hospital, similar to a prison sentence, "where we would feel safe and we feel like society would be safer, but at the same time he would be getting the treatment that he needed," she explained. "It would be a better environment than prison. That's what we hoped for. We didn't know that the options were so limited."

Deputy Salt Lake County attorney Patricia Cassell said two evaluators, one hired by the state and another by defense attorneys, determined that Kevin Cuillard was insane at the time of the crime.

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