The State Hospital counselor who ran off with a patient last year has been sentenced to five years on probation after pleading guilty to felony evidence tampering and a misdemeanor count of aiding an unauthorized departure.
In exchange for Michelle Marie Messer's guilty plea to those charges, prosecutors dropped three remaining felony charges: Two counts of furnishing prohibited articles, a cellphone and a vapor-smoking device Messer was accused of giving the patient, and a theft-by-receiving charge for a stolen gun police seized from her when the pair were arrested in Las Vegas a week after leaving the state-run mental institution together in March 2018.
The terms of the plea agreement, negotiated last week by defense attorney Marjorie Rogers, require Messer to surrender her psychology license, undergo regular drug screens, pay a $1,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service over the next year.
Authorities said security camera footage shows Messer using her access to the hospital's forensic unit to walk out with Cory Kristopher Chapin. She has not explained why she left Arkansas with the 47-year-old Eureka Springs man. His diagnoses include bipolar disorder, hepatitis C and a variety of drug problems, court records show.
Messer was fired after her arrest. She had worked at the State Hospital since 2011 after transferring from the Conway Human Development Center. Her job description at the Little Rock facility included conducting psychological evaluations of patients as well as individual and group therapy sessions.
The evidence-tampering charge relates to a backpack that hospital authorities said contained the phone and vaping fluid. Christina Mullinax, a friend of Messer's, reported that Messer arrived at her home and gave her the backpack on the same day the psychologist and Chapin left the hospital..
Mullinax said that Messer told her to keep it because hospital authorities were about to search Chapin's room and that she needed the backpack out of her office in case they searched her office as well, according to an arrest affidavit.
Chapin has been in the custody of the Department of Human Services on a court order since December 2015 after a Carroll County circuit judge acquitted him on charges of attempted kidnapping and theft on mental-health grounds.
He'd been arrested by September 2014 in Carroll County law enforcement officers who had been alerted by his father to look for him because Chapin had taken the father's car without permission. He was found in a city park. Inside the car, investigators found handcuffs, machetes and a plastic pistol that had been painted black.
Chapin told officers at the time that they had just stopped a kidnapping. He had been on his way to abduct a Eureka Springs hairdresser, have sex with her, get her to listen to his story, then let her go, he said.
God had told him to abduct the woman, he told detectives, stating that he had read the Bible and the dictionary and that he "received signs from every first, seventh and 16th word," court filings show. Chapin said the woman he intended to abduct had cut his hair twice after he moved to Eureka Springs in October 2013.
Chapin had absconded from treatment before in February 2016. He was held at the State Hospital for about a week after the judge's ruling and then transferred to a private facility in Corning after his psychiatrist determined that Chapin was not a danger to himself or others, court records show.
Chapin was not allowed to leave the grounds of the Mid-South Health System facility unless he had permission.
Two months later, he was released on a weekend pass to spend time with his father in Jonesboro but never returned to the facility.
Court records show Chapin left the state and was at large for 18 months before authorities could locate him. Authorities received an anonymous tip in July 2017 that he was in Las Vegas, but it was another 2½ months before police there arrested him and returned him to the State Hospital in November 2017.
Four months later, Messer, a psychological examiner, took him out.
Court records show that Chapin was transferred about three weeks ago from the State Hospital to a lockdown unit at the Mid-South Health System at 3700 Access Road in Jonesboro.
"While he continues to be affected by a mental disease and continues to need supervised treatment, it is the opinion of the treatment team that he no longer requires the restrictive environment of the Arkansas State Hospital," Dr.Kara Belue, a hospital psychiatrist wrote in an April evaluation.
Tax and property records show that Messer operated a mental-health therapy and behavioral support program out of a Jacksonville office called Arkansas Creative Behavioral Therapy, which she incorporated in 2015.
On the company website, Messer stated that she got her master's degree in clinical psychology in Georgia in 2002 while working at a family counseling program in the state.
Messer is trained in cognitive behavioral therapy and has 13 years of experience providing treatment to intellectually disabled clients with psychiatric disorders.
Metro on 05/10/2019
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