An Aurora man who had been accused of stabbing his father to death will spend an indefinite amount of time getting treatment for mental illness at a Summit County facility.
Judge Becky Doherty committed Colton J. Gavin, 24, to Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare in Sagamore Hills Township during Gavin’s approximately 15-minute civil commitment hearing in Portage County Court of Common Pleas on Monday afternoon.
“We’re very relieved that he’s finally going to get help after four years,” said Melanie Gavin, Colton Gavin’s mother, after the hearing. “And justice is served.”
Doherty said her choice of the facility was based on recommendations in a mental health assessment that determined Gavin “is a mentally ill person subject to hospitalization by court order in the least restricted treatment setting being consistent with public safety and Mr. Gavin’s treatment needs …”
“The court does retain jurisdiction technically for life, as this is an aggravated murder originally,” Doherty told Gavin. “That comports with how long the court has jurisdiction. What generally occurs is that at least every two years, I will receive a report from Northcoast, and I’m required to have a hearing every two years at minimum to determine whether or not this is still the least restricted setting given your mental illness.”
Doherty added that there could be additional hearings if Northcoast believes a change in treatment is needed.
Prosecution, defense satisfied with mental health assessment
Both Prosecutor Stephen Michniak and defense attorney Joseph Gorman said they had no issues with the assessment. Gorman said he is satisfied with the assessment qualified as “independent” and he sees no need for the defense to conduct one of its own.
“Yes, ma’am” and “yes, judge” were Gavin’s only comments during the hearing when Doherty asked him if he understood his rights.
Gorman told Doherty the prosecutors were “fair” throughout the case and were “compassionate” to Gavin and his family.
Doherty found Gavin not guilty by reason of insanity on all counts in September, including aggravated murder and two counts each of murder and second-degree felony assault. Gavin chose to have his case heard by a judge, rather than a jury, and Doherty’s verdict followed a bench trial.
Gorman also said during the commitment hearing that Gavin and his family are grateful for the difficult decision Doherty made with his verdict.
“I think this opportunity gives Cole at least a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Gorman. “He can work towards getting better and proving he can be a productive member of the community. Clearly, judge, a hospital setting as opposed to a maximum security prison for Cole is a night-and-day situation, and I believe he has some hope.”
Doherty said at the time that her verdict was based on a lengthy review of testimony given by psychologists Bob Stinson and James Karpawich, expert witnesses for the defense and prosecution, respectively, as well as Gavin’s medical records for the months leading up to the November 2018 death of Thomas Gavin. She said she came away from the review agreeing with Stinson that the records show Gavin was showing clear signs of mental illness and was not cooperating with treatment or taking prescribed medications.
Man’s family tried to get him help for mental illness before fatal stabbing
Melanie Gavin and his grandmother, Melissa Melvin, have said the family had tried to get him help prior to his father’s death, but he was hampered by the fact that he is an adult, so facilities he was taken to could not hold him for more than 72 hours against his will.
Melanie Gavin said her son was a college student who had a lot of friends until mental illness started taking hold of him.
Colton Gavin was accused of stabbing his father multiple times on Nov. 19, 2018. Gavin and his father lived together in a house on Prestige Woods Boulevard.
Twice in 2019, he was declared incompetent to stand trial, but was then declared competent in December 2019.
Gorman said after the commitment hearing that he is pleased with the outcome.
“I think the judge made the right decision, and I commend her for her courage,” he said. “I feel confident that Cole will finally get the help he needs. And anyone who knew Tom Gavin will tell you he’d be pleased.”
Family members standing nearby expressed agreement with this.
“Amen,” said one.
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at email@example.com.