She should have been at high school; instead, 18-year-old Angela Coffel was into her dad's cache of airline-liquor bottles, busy drinking shooters outside her parents' trailer. This wasn't the first time Angela -- the girl nicknamed "Angel" by her grandmother -- had decided to skip, and it wouldn't be the last. Angel had moved back with her parents just a few months earlier, and adjustment to life in Foley, a mere speck on the map 21 miles north of St. Peters, was proving difficult. Her parents were still fighting, and though she'd given up alcohol just before moving back, here she was, getting drunk again.
As another day slipped away from Angel, a neighbor spotted her and asked a favor: "Would you help my old lady clean the house?" Angel agreed, took her liquor bottles over to Lanae Collins' trailer, put them in the freezer and began to help the young mother with housework. Jeff, 11, and Matt, 13 -- two brothers who also lived in the trailer park and were friends of Collins' -- ambled in. When Collins went into the kitchen to make dinner, she left Angel and the boys alone in the living room, watching TV. Angel was still drinking.
"Let's play 'Truth or Dare,'" the boys suggested.
"Have you ever had sex with a man?" one of them asked.
"Yes," Angel answered.
"Have you ever had sex with a woman?"
Again she answered yes.
When they asked whether she'd ever parachuted, Angel demanded another question.
"Have you ever gone out in the street naked?"
"Yes," she said, then elected to answer another truth question. But the boys insisted she was limited to three truth questions and now had to take a dare -- Angel must perform oral sex on them, they said.
After accepting, she fellated Matt for about five seconds but stopped because, she later recounted, "the shit felt nasty." Collins re-entered the room and saw Jeff lying on top of Angel, his pants down. Outraged, Collins told Angel to leave and "never come back," but she didn't call the boys' mother.
Two days later -- on Saturday, Oct. 8, 1994 -- the boys' mother reported the sexual assault to the Lincoln County Sheriff's Department. Deputies investigated and confirmed the incident. They also discovered something Angel already knew -- she was HIV-positive.
On Nov. 10, 1994, Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney G. John Richards charged Angel with two counts of sodomy. While Angel sat in jail, her family moved back to St. Louis. In May, seven months after Angel took a dare, she pleaded guilty to the charges, and her father posted a $50,000 unsecured bond. She remained free until sentencing but was ordered to stay away from a 16-year-old boy with whom she was having a sexual relationship.
Because Angel didn't have any prior convictions, a presentencing report recommended probation. But when Lincoln County Circuit Judge Ralph Jaynes learned that Angel had contacted the boy -- the boy's uncle sent the judge a letter -- probation was out of the question. The judge was furious, and in March 1996 he slapped her with a five-year prison sentence.
Angel would spend those years calling several prisons home: the Renz Correctional Center, the Chillicothe Correctional Center, the Vandalia Correctional Center. She also racked up 73 conduct violations, most in her first 19 months. Prison officials were particularly upset with such violations as her kissing another female inmate in bed; pressing the front part of her body against a male corrections officer, walking down a hall wearing nothing but a gray state-issue shirt after taking a shower; hitting a wall instead of her cellmate; coming out of her cell with her jumpsuit unzipped, breasts hanging out; and burning herself with a curling iron to cover up a hickey.
While behind bars, Angel was supposed to attend the Missouri Sex Offenders Program. In June 1997, she began the first phase of the program, but her poor reading ability -- she tests at a first-grade level -- made the coursework difficult. Even though men in the sex-offender program with limited reading skills receive remedial help, Angel's lawyers claim that the same assistance wasn't available to her. She was terminated from the first phase of the program during the final session for being 20 minutes late to class, then inexplicably allowed to proceed to the second phase. But three weeks later, Angel quit the program altogether.
According to the "Participation and Examination" report prepared by Sally Taylor, an associate psychologist with the sex-offender program, Angel's participation was "wildly erratic." Angel, Taylor wrote in her report, made a point of describing "her behavior in a graphic and lewd manner presumably with the intent to shock and offend the investigating officers." Angel was disrespectful to group members when she returned late from breaks, Taylor noted, and her daily assignments were "carelessly completed." Angel had the temerity to insist "that she could not spread the HIV virus through her saliva" during oral sex -- a point on which she and Taylor argued. (Another psychologist later would note that Angel, not Taylor, was right on this point.) Taylor concluded her report by saying that Angel was "an extremely high risk to reoffend sexually and engage in other criminal behaviors."
Having already served jail time on the sodomy charge before entering her plea, Angel was scheduled for release on July 31, 2000. As is standard for all state inmates on their way out, an "End of Confinement" report on Angel was completed. Rebecca Woody, whose title with the Department of Corrections is "associate psychologist," even though she's actually just a professional counselor, did the report on Angela. According to Woody, Angel is a sexual sadist who is "willing to risk infecting others with a deadly disease by having unprotected sexual contact with them."
She then included language that would dramatically alter Angel's fate:
Angela Coffel, wrote professional counselor Rebecca Woody, "may meet the criteria of a sexually violent predator."
Whether Angel was, at that point, a sexual predator was an open question; whether she had been preyed upon most of her life was not.
Her parents, Harvey and Debbie Coffel, and Angel's younger brother, Raymond, all refused to comment for this story, but according to Angel and the psychological reports prepared in the case, her childhood was marked by physical abuse and violence. Her parents hit each other when they argued; they hit their children. According to Angel and her lawyers, Debbie Coffel once threw a lamp at Raymond because he wouldn't listen to her and, in the process, cut his head. It was only after he was taken to the hospital that the family learned Raymond suffered from hearing loss in both ears.
Alcohol and drug abuse also marred the Coffel home. Angel says she lived in a household in which her father and mother frequently smoked marijuana in front of their kids and didn't object when Angel began smoking. Angel told psychologists and claimed in deposition and trial testimony that when she and Raymond were children, her mother turned tricks while her father was at work; she also alleged being raped by a friend of her uncle's, as well as by a male teenage relative. When she was 9, Angel says, a 15-year-old girl sexually abused her.
Much of Angel's upbringing was left to her grandmother, a woman Angel nicknamed "Big Mama." But even her grandmother couldn't control Angel. Around the age of 13, Angel was placed in foster care after hitting her mother in the head with a board.
When Angel was 14, Big Mama took her to St. Anthony's Medical Center to seek help for her granddaughter's depression, alcohol and drug use. Angel was admitted for 24 days during July and August 1991. Hospital records note her history of self-mutilation -- burning and cutting her clitoris -- substance use and hypersexuality. The staff observed her mood swings, crying and anger. A full psychological evaluation concluded that her behavior stemmed from the sexual abuse she sustained. Although not psychotic, Angela had an unrealistic and grandiose manner, the psychologists found, and they rendered a diagnosis of "depression covered by hyperactivity," "post-traumatic stress disorder related to sexual trauma," "chemical abuse and/or dependency" and "conduct disorder, developing mixed personality stabilized." Seven months later, Angel was readmitted to St. Anthony's after cutting her wrists. Her diagnosis was changed to "bipolar disorder, depressed" and "depression, recurrent." After 16 days, the hospital turned her over to the care of the Missouri Division of Family Services.
School was another problem in Angel's life. She was found to have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder at an early age but only took Ritalin for a short time. Angel says it had bad side effects. While enrolled in St. Louis grammar schools, she was found to have a learning disability. IQ tests taken periodically throughout her childhood placed Angel at the "high end of the borderline range of intellectual functioning or the low end of the low average range." At age 11, Angel was identified by the school district as "severely emotionally disturbed," and she was moved to the Edgewood Children's Center, where she seemed to thrive. Her peer relationships, boundaries and self-control improved. But she still needed to be reminded about sexually provocative behavior, Edgewood records indicate. After being discharged from Edgewood because she "improved," Angel sporadically attended Webster Middle School in St. Louis, Hickman High School in Columbia (while living in a group foster home) and St. Louis' Roosevelt High.
At 16, Angel ran away from her parents' home and into a relationship with a Bloods gang member in his mid- to late 20s. Angel says her parents didn't try to stop her. "My mom and dad did not give a fuck what I did," she says. "Dad was always out working, and my mom was constantly doing something she didn't supposed to be doin'." Angel says she was part of the gang. Her boyfriend, she says, "was like he was the king, and I was the queen." The gang "was like my family -- they showed me love and they were there." During her gang life, she claims, she was a passenger in cars involved in drive-by shootings. It is also during this period that Angel contracted HIV. In her testimony and in subsequent interviews, her accounts of the source of the HIV infection have differed: She's blamed her boyfriend, a tattoo and a gang initiation in which she claims to have had sex with 20 men.
After nearly two years, Angel left gang life, weary of beatings from her boyfriend. With no place else to go and still yearning for affection from her parents, Angel moved back with her parents in Foley: "I never turned against my parents, no matter how bad they treated me, no matter how bad I was getting my ass beat."
Missouri's Sexually Violent Predator Act went into effect Jan. 1, 1999, with the goal of preventing rapists, child molesters and pedophiles from reoffending by keeping them locked up after their original criminal sentence. The bill was modeled on legislation pioneered in Kansas, whose 1994 statute was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997. In that case, the high court said that Kansas could civilly commit Leroy Hendricks as a sexually violent predator because he would be a threat to society if he was released from prison. Hendricks confessed to molesting numerous children as far back as 1955. The year after the Supreme Court put its stamp of approval on the law, Missouri's General Assembly passed its own version, with the support of the state attorney general's office. In Missouri, sexually violent crimes include not only forcible rape but statutory rape and sodomy, child molestation, sexual assault and deviate sexual assault. Although called "violent" sex crimes, it is not necessary for the victim to have been beaten, hit or threatened by a deadly weapon for a transgression to be labeled as such.
In addition to requiring the original crime to be one listed as sexually violent, the law states that the person must have a "mental abnormality" that makes it "more likely than not" that the person will engage in a sexually predatory act in the future. The attorney general must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person meets the definition in a civil trial. A judge or unanimous jury ultimately decides whether the "sexually violent predator" label fits.
Thanks to Rebecca Woody's report, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon was now scrutinizing Angela Coffel. Under the law, Nixon's office was required to send Woody's findings to a five-member multidisciplinary panel for assessment. The panel that reviewed Angel's case included four people with mental-health backgrounds and a victims' advocate from the Department of Corrections. On June 1, 2000, the panel refused by a vote of 4-1 to label Angel a sexually violent offender. The only holdout was the Department of Corrections representative.
But the panel's assessment was merely advisory, and the attorney general's office turned to a five-member review panel composed of prosecutors. The five lawyers reviewing Angel's case include Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Darrell Moore, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Cynthia Carle, Callaway County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Sterner, St. Charles Prosecuting Attorney Jack Banas and G. John Richards, the Lincoln County prosecutor who handled Angel's "Truth or Dare" case. On June 19, 2000, the prosecutors voted 5-0 that Angel was a sexually violent predator. Under the law, it's the prosecutors' vote that really matters, and their approval allowed Nixon to proceed with the case.
Three days after the vote, the attorney general filed a petition with Lincoln County Associate Circuit Judge Patrick Flynn, asking the court to detain Angel after her July 31, 2000, release date. The judge agreed. Lyn Ruess and Eric Selig, attorneys from the Missouri Public Defender's sex-crime unit, were brought in to represent Angel. Both lawyers are nine-year veterans of the office and part of a handful of attorneys experienced in fighting the "sexually violent predator" proceedings.
The defense team hired Dr. Delaney Dean, a Kansas City psychologist and former lawyer. After examining Angel, Dean concluded that Woody's sexual-sadism diagnosis was wrong -- the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual does not permit the diagnosis for someone who merely has oral sex with someone while HIV-positive. Dean agreed with the multidisciplinary panel: Angel was not a violent sexual predator.
Dean and the multidisciplinary panel weren't the only ones who thought Angel wasn't a sexually violent predator. After an Aug. 25, 2000, preliminary hearing, Judge Flynn ruled there was probable cause to hold a full-blown trial on the question. He appointed Dr. Richard Scott to examine Angel and file a report. Scott, the top forensic-evaluation expert at the St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center (formerly known as the State Hospital), has performed 15 such evaluations and found that 11 detainees met the "sexually violent predator" criteria. He found that Angel did not.
Scott tells the Riverfront Times that in the evaluation of men, examiners have a body of research to rely on in making a determination. According to the research, male rapists have a 19 percent reoffense rate and child molesters have a 12.5 percent recidivism rate. After study of the characteristics shared by reoffenders share, two different statistical tools -- the Static 99 and the RRASOR, or Rapid Risk Assessment of Sex Offender Recidivism -- have been developed to help mental-health professionals make determinations. The tests take into account such factors as the offender's age, the number of prior sex offenses, whether victims were male or female and whether a clinical diagnosis of paraphilia, pedophilia or bipolar disorder exists. Then they predict whether the person falls in the 81 to 87 percent who won't reoffend or whether the person should be kept confined as a sexually violent predator.
But the tests for men don't apply to women, Scott says, and the number of female sexual offenders and reoffenders in the country is small compared with the number of men. In one study, fewer than 3 percent of the female sex offenders reoffended, and 0 percent were found to have reoffended in another study. But the lack of large-scale studies makes it difficult to know what a woman's baseline offense rate is, other than to say it is probably extremely low.
After evaluating Angel, Scott wrote in his report that Angel suffers from the mental abnormality of antisocial personality disorder, which is characterized as a "marked disregard for and violation of the right of others," but says that it doesn't relate to her sexual behavior. Instead, he reported, her sexual promiscuity was related to another mental abnormality, borderline-personality disorder. But there is no relationship between sexual promiscuity and sexually violent behavior, he noted in the report to the court. And he now says that the sexual-sadism diagnosis by the Department of Corrections was flat-out wrong: "It doesn't even come in the ballpark."
Scott indicated in the report that because of her childhood sexual abuse, as well as her highly chaotic and abusive home life, Angel uses sex as a way to gain acceptance and affection. However, he noted that the existing research indicates that the reoffense rate for women is extremely low; performing oral sex on the two brothers was her only sexually related illegal act; and Angel doesn't suffer from paraphilia, in which a person is sexually aroused by nonconsenting or nonhuman partners. Scott concluded that Angel's personality disorder doesn't make it "more likely than not" that she will commit sexually violent predator acts in the future.
The prosecutors, however, believed that Scott, the top forensic expert at the state's largest mental-health facility, didn't have enough "expertise and knowledge" and decided to get yet another opinion. "The consequences in our mind are so great, if we make a mistake, that we want to be sure," assistant attorney general Ted Bruce told the Riverfront Times.
The war of the experts started. The attorney general's office hired two experts, and the public defender's office also used two, including Dr. Dean. For all four experts' opinions, Missouri taxpayers shelled out $20,000.
The attorney general's office first hired Dr. Patricia Davin from Nevada. Dr. Davin's main qualification appears to have been the fact that she authored a book, called Female Sexual Abusers: Three Views, which was published in 1999 by the Safer Society Foundation. Davin broke female sex offenders into three categories: women who commit sex crimes with a male partner, such as a boyfriend or husband; the "Mrs. Robinson" type, older women who prey on young males; and women who molest boys. According to Davin, Angel falls into the third category. Although the state wanted Davin to examine Angel, Angel's lawyers thwarted the attempt when they discovered that Davin wasn't a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. Yet Judge Flynn still allowed her to testify at trial that Angel is a sexually violent predator.
The attorney general's office also hired Dr. Amy Phenix, a California psychologist who helped with the development of the Static 99 and the coding rules for the RRASOR. Phenix has testified in a number of cases across the country and is well known for opposing "clinical judgment" in sexually violent predator evaluations on the basis that chance is just as accurate a predictor. Phenix examined Angel, then concluded that Angel suffers from borderline-personality disorder: Angel uses sex for affection and, because she is immature for her age, she'll seek out boys for sex. Phenix refused to comment for this story.
Ruess and Selig, the defense lawyers, hired Dr. Lynn Maskel, a forensic psychiatrist from Wisconsin. Maskel interviewed Angel and reviewed her records. She agreed with the diagnosis of borderline-personality disorder, noting that Angel has "specific impairments of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and ... marked impulsivity." But she concluded that Angel doesn't suffer from deviant sexual arousal, paraphilia or pedophilia, and she dismissed the initial sexual-sadism diagnosis as "far off the mark." Maskel also questioned Phenix's use of a risk-factor list developed from male-offender research, saying there "is no significant body of literature to substantiate that female sex offenders are similar to male sex offenders." And she noted that the "very small number of female sex offenders compared to males is at least a crude indication that gender of the offender confounds the situation in some dramatic fashion." Noting that just three women in the country are confined under sexually violent predator laws, Maskel concluded there might be a reason other than Angel's behavior driving the state's push to label her a sexually violent predator: "There appears to be one piece of data that is driving this, which is the fact that Ms. Coffel has a positive HIV status."
Ted Bruce, the state prosecutor, concedes that having sex with someone while HIV-positive "is not a sexually violent offense as defined by Missouri law." Then he adds, "She just appeared to be someone who needed affirmation in her life through sexual relations.... It was our concern and a concern of our experts that she would engage in sexual relations with minors, and that, by definition, is a sexually violent offense."
Despite the strength of their experts, Angel and her lawyers waived a jury trial, afraid that a jury wouldn't be able to get past the fear of Angel's HIV status. Judge Flynn, for his part, made it clear early in the case that he thought HIV was irrelevant.
(About two weeks before the trial started, Bruce entered his appearance in the case on behalf of the attorney general's office. Soon after, Flynn called Ruess and told her about a possible conflict of interest he had with Bruce. In 1996, a group of people in Lincoln County who were part of the "common law courts" movement, which rejects the authority of the law, were upset because a group member's daughter received a traffic ticket and Flynn refused to let the girl's father, who was not a lawyer, represent her in court. As a retaliatory measure, the group filed a $10.8 million lien against Flynn's property. The attorney general's office prosecuted the group for the act, and Ted Bruce was the lead attorney in the case. Ruess told Angel about the possible problem, but she waived her right to protest the conflict.)
On Thursday, July 19, 2001 -- almost a year after she was supposed to be released -- Angel appeared in the Lincoln County Courthouse in Troy, Mo. During two days of open-court testimony, Judge Flynn heard Angel's sometimes emotional testimony about her past and her vows that she isn't sexually attracted to children. Most of the remaining testimony came from the experts. In addition to his report, Scott also testified that the law is flawed because it only allows complete freedom or total commitment. After all of the evidence was presented and closing arguments were made, Judge Flynn didn't take a short recess or leave the bench. He sat quietly for a moment, then said he agreed with Scott's criticism, that the law gave him few choices. Then the judge ruled for the state -- total commitment instead of complete freedom.
Angela Coffel had just become the fourth woman in the U.S. to be declared a sexually violent predator -- and Missouri's first.
The young woman with alabaster skin and short brown hair eyes the Riverfront Times writer warily at the beginning of their first meeting and at the same time breaks into a side-mouthed grin as she gently teases her lawyers, calling Selig a "preppy boy" and joking about Ruess' red hair. The relationship between the two lawyers and their client appears close. She gives them presents she's made during art class, cards for their birthdays. They send her pajamas, a robe and slippers for Christmas. Ruess calls Angel on Christmas Day. Only Angel's lawyers visit since she was moved to a Department of Mental Health facility in Farmington in October. As they leave, Angel, now 25, hugs them and cries.
Angel's existence is a solitary one. The law won't allow her to be housed with female inmates in the Department of Corrections, and she must be separated from other mental health patients. Living with the male inmates deemed sexually violent predators isn't an option, so she sits alone, locked in a wing of the Hoctor Building. The three-story redbrick building is ringed by two barbed-wire fences with large coils of silver-spiked razor wire coiled between them, a measure added by the Department of Mental Health to make her facility secure. According to Dr. Rick Gowdy, the Missouri Department of Mental Health's director of forensic services, the 22 male violent sexual predators and the 29 male detainees awaiting trial will move into the building next door to Hoctor this summer and out of the Farmington Correctional Center. The program expects to add 20 to 30 convicts a year, so the space is needed.
Although the Hoctor Building houses other mental-health patients, Angel is kept away from them. She lives in a small third-floor suite, behind locked double doors. Although each door has a small window, it's covered with paper; she can't see out, and no one can see in. A blue semicircular receptionist's desk dominates the interior of Angel's living room. There are always two aides sitting behind the desk, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their sole task is to guard Angel, to make sure she doesn't hurt herself and to record her behaviors. When Angel goes out into the yard and other patients are present, they stand like bodyguards around her so she can't speak to anyone. The Department of Mental Health asked the Legislature last year to appropriate an extra $215,000 just to cover the costs of housing Angel. Lawmakers refused.
A table is pushed up against the wall across from the desk, beneath a small, secure window. Three chairs are placed around it. Angel sits in the chair much of the time, watching television. She likes Cops and Jenny Jones, as well as The Golden Girls, one of her Big Mama's favorite programs. Next to the TV, pressed against a wall adjacent to the desk, is a small bookshelf. Paperback romance novels supplied by the department sit on a shelf, along with games such as Sorry and Yahtzee.
Angel isn't ready to talk, so Selig suggests a game of Yahtzee. Angel's ready to offer helpful hints to those who can't remember how to play the game. While the two lawyers, Angel and the writer play, the aides keep a careful watch over the group. Dr. Jay Englehart, Angel's psychiatrist, HIV doctor and focus of most of her hostility, watches. Angel's caseworker also keeps a careful eye on the proceedings.
"Get me my snack!" Angel orders an aide during a game. The aide dutifully brings over a plastic bowl of cereal, plastic spoon and Styrofoam cup full of juice. Selig teases Angel as she dumps packet after packet of sugar in the bowl.
She makes it clear that there are aides she likes and those she doesn't. The aides she favors see her sweet, considerate side; the tough-talking prison inmate is the side that interacts with aides she doesn't care for. Angel's relationship with her psychiatrist is so strained that he recently asked her lawyers to intercede because, he told them, "she yells at me."
During the Yahtzee game, Angel starts talking about her new boyfriend, confined at Fulton State Hospital. She says he's a Blood she knew "from the streets." The envelopes carrying the love letters between the two facilities are covered with hearts, drawings and little notes, much like the love letters high-school students pass across the aisle, except these are sent between institutions. She reads excerpts from the letters: He says he'll kill her if she's with another man. But that's OK, Angel says, because she'll break his legs if he's with another woman.
In a deposition before her trial, Angel testified that her sexual preference is women: "They don't beat you." But now, she says, she has converted to Islam, and she's back to preferring men. "Women know what other women want; they know how to feel, how to connect within the heart, more than a man does," Angel says. But "with me, having the religion I do, I can't go through that."
Angel gives her guests a tour of her bedroom, which is just off the reception area. Dawn Chellis, the caseworker, follows. Angel's small writing desk is covered with pictures ripped from magazines: Nelly, Pink, Eve, Snoop Dogg, Tank and the late Aaliyah are just a few of the celebrities represented. A picture of Lil' Bow Wow is taped to a cabinet that doubles as her dresser. Angel's bed is pushed up against the farthest wall, the only place with windows, and is positioned so that when she wakes up, she's looking outside at barbed wire and sky. Red dice rest on the window ledge; the numbers 6-6, facing out, represent gang symbols.
Angel prefers spending her time asleep in her room. "I love to sleep -- it gets me so I can be at home with my family, touching them," she says. Plus, there isn't much else to do. Some Mondays, she has an hour of crafts; on Tuesday and Thursday, her caseworker comes by for about an hour; Dr. Englehart comes by on Wednesday for an hour. The rest of the time is empty.
As the visitors leave the bedroom, Ruess talks to Chellis about Angel's treatment, which doesn't seem to exist. Englehart reprimands the caseworker for talking to Ruess about her client -- it would violate the therapist-patient privilege. Of course, that same privilege doesn't exist if the attorney general's office wants to read Angel's records. The sexually violent predator law waives the privilege for them.
A few weeks after the conversation between Ruess and Chellis, the caseworker is fired by the Department of Mental Health for three things, according to Chellis: speaking with Ruess about Angel's treatment, participating as a witness in a wedding at the Farmington Correctional Center involving a man committed as a sexually violent predator, and being late to work. In an interview with the Riverfront Times, Chellis blasts Angel's confinement and treatment: "It is bad for her. It is difficult to be isolated for a long period of time; it makes her angry and causes her physical condition to worsen." And she says that the limited treatment Angel is being given isn't suited for her. "She's much more likely to be victimized" if she is ever released, says Chellis, than to be a "victimizer." It is an opinion echoed by many of the other psychologists and psychiatrists who've examined Angel.
Chellis also worries about Angel's health: "She's had HIV for nine years, and now is when she's going to have physical problems. Around 10 years is when full-blown AIDS" can develop. She notes that Angel is already experiencing nosebleeds and sores in her mouth but says Angel's psychiatrist isn't really equipped to be an HIV doctor. Chellis says frankly that she thinks "we are going to run out of time." Dr. Rick Gowdy -- the mental-health department's top forensic psychiatrist -- tells the Riverfront Times that although he can't speak about Angel's medical treatment specifically, he admits that the department doesn't have a physician who specializes in HIV treatment; instead, the state uses "general medical doctors, like family doctors."
Gowdy also generally outlines the sex-offender treatment currently provided to the men, much of which will presumably apply to Angel. She will participate in anger-management and substance-abuse classes, write in a journal and identify the psychological triggers that cause her to prey on children so she can stop herself from offending in the future. The time frame for the treatment? "Years," Gowdy says.
Angel, however, has her hopes pinned on August. Under the law, Angel's case must be reviewed on an annual basis by the Department of Mental Health, after which a report is sent to the judge. If the department believes that Angel's condition has changed so that she is no longer a threat, they can recommend another trial -- to get her out of sexually violent predator mental-health prison. But so far, in all the cases that have come up for review, the department has not recommended a trial. Because Angel's treatment has barely begun, it is extremely unlikely that the department will recommend release for her. She can petition the court for release after the first year, and the judge must hold a hearing on the question of whether to schedule a trial, but it is a one-shot deal. If the judge denies the trial request, he doesn't have to hold a hearing on any subsequent petition filed in ensuing years. Under the law as written, it's conceivable that Angel could spend the rest of her life in solitary confinement without another hearing.
Meanwhile, her life is controlled in the prisonlike environment of Hoctor, even though Marty Bellew-Smith, the director of the sexually violent predator program -- which the department renamed the Missouri Sexual Offender Treatment Center -- insists it isn't a prison. Yet when a Riverfront Times writer and photographer arrive to take Angel's picture for this story, they are met in the front of the building by a guard carrying a gun, Bellew-Smith and Englehart. All three must be present at all times, and there are to be no photos of the building's interior, no pictures of Angel's bedroom and no pictures of staff, with just one photo of Angel against a plain backdrop from the shoulders up, even though Angel has requested no full-face photos. An hour of wrangling ensues, during which a phone call is placed to Gowdy, and finally the director relents. During the photo shoot, Bellew-Smith complains to the RFT photographer that Angel looks "too depressed" in the pictures.
She is depressed, her lawyers say. Angel tells the RFT, "They say that staff members can't be your friends, 'cause it's overstepping the boundaries. So who in the fuck am I supposed to get close to?"
Ruess and Selig are clearly concerned about Angel's living conditions. "For anyone with a borderline-personality disorder, it is horrible" to live in solitary confinement, Ruess says.
Ruess often questions her trial strategy; maybe they should have opted for a jury, or perhaps they should have asked for a new judge when Flynn disclosed his earlier relationship with Ted Bruce. Angel's case, Ruess says, is a "career-ender."
"It is hard to see something really wrong happening and not be able to fix it," she explains. She's grown attached to Angel, and when Judge Flynn announced his decision, Ruess cried with her client. Ruess wonders whether she can handle the emotional strain of trying Angel's case again, but in the next breath she decides that reason is "selfish."
"I'm not the one locked up. I'll get her out if it's the last thing I do," Ruess vows. With Selig as the good cop and Ruess as the bad cop, they struggle with the mental-health department, chiding them over Angel's treatment and solitary conditions. And they continue plotting trial strategy and giving assistance to another public defender in the appellate division who is appealing Flynn's ruling.
But while her lawyers work on the outside, Angel's still locked in her own wing, fixated on Flynn's August review. When asked what she'd tell the judge if she could speak directly to him, Angel pauses for a moment and hangs her head, and as tears fall on the gray linoleum tile, she simply says, "Give me a second chance."