The FAQ: The Murder of Anastasia WitbolsFeugen
Was Byron Case committed to a mental ward for observation?
Just more than one year after Anastasia's murder (early January 1999), Byron Case was committed to the Western Missouri Mental Health Center for observation following Kelly Moffett's emergency call that he was suicidal. He was held for 24 hours and then released.Top of page
In Case's description of the incident,1he stated that he believed it was merely retaliation by an angry ex-girlfriend, and that he was only held because she would not give permission to release him. he opined that her call was possibly in response to his refusal to get back together after a breakup, and was at the least a bogus charge designed to hurt him.
In giving testimony about the the same incident,2 Moffett asserted that he was at that time crying, acting very depressed, and describing in detail how he planned to kill himself. She said that he demanded that she come over, and she refused, saying she was going to call 911 instead. When he hung up on her she called 911 to report the possible suicide attempt. She also stated that she later spoke with his mother, who accepted her explanation of his threats.3
Interestingly, Case said during his testimony, "we were just arguing about something. I don't remember what". In fact, he could not at that time remember the subject of the argument, only that they argued. However, in his 2011 petition to the Governor of Missouri, Case stated (writing in the third person), that "Byron did not approve of Kelly's drug and alcohol consumption. He told her he did not want her in his life unless she could get sober, then he hung up on her. While he could not remember a single detail of his argument with Kelly in his 2002 testimony and did not challenge or contradict a single point of hers, he remembered specific details more than nine years later.
A spokesperson for Western Missouri Mental Health confirmed that an individual cannot be committed for observation solely upon the word of another individual; police will respond to such calls only if the reporting individual identifies themselves, but the individual must be examined by an admitting physician before being committed for a 24-hour observation. It is the admitting physician's prerogative to release an individual if they are obviously calm and rational, but Byron Case did not meet those criteria. They cannot hold an individual without a court order for longer than 48 hours, but that does not depend upon "permission" from anyone else if the patient is 18 or older. Moreover, a fraudulent call to 911, causing an unnecessary emergency response, can be treated as a criminal offense, subject both to prosecution and private litigation. Kelly Moffett's 911 call resulted in no such action, nor even threat of such action.
It is interesting to note the timing of this event. Case had appeared in Clay County, Missouri Court December 30, 1998, entered a guilty plea on the charge of Felony Stealing, and had been sentenced to five years probation on that charge,4 just dodging a six-month prison sentence. As he wrote in his online diary a number of times how miserable probation was, it is possible that this was the trigger event for his suicidal depression. It is also noteworthy that Moffett had broken up with him at this same time period,5 yet another possible trigger for such threats of suicide.
In his petition to the Missouri Governor's Office for excecutive clemency, Case provided a document from Western Missouri attesting to the fact that he was not suicidal and could be released. That document asserts that he posed no danger of suicide at the end of his confinement, but conveniently does not not indicate whether there was any such danger when he was admitted, making no judgment as to his state of mind when he was first admitted.
Case was held for 24 hours by Western Missouri, indicating a likely concern on the part of the admitting psychiatrist, and he did not charge Moffett with making any sort of fraudulent emergency call, so it can be assumed that his suicide threat was considered valid, contrary to his testimony in court.