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Published: Saturday, 9/7/2002

Verdict of insanity wounds victim anew

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Stabbing victim Laurie Andrich wipes tears as she testifies in the Bowling Green courtroom of Judge Reeve Kelsey. Stabbing victim Laurie Andrich wipes tears as she testifies in the Bowling Green courtroom of Judge Reeve Kelsey.
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BRADNER - Not so long ago, Laurie Andrich enjoyed getting her kids off to school in the morning, then walking the three blocks or so to work at a bar.

That all changed on Valentine's Day, when she left her home in this quiet Wood County village and met the glance of Daniel Rodgers, a garbage man working for NAT Transportation. Though she didn't know him, she said her customary good morning. Before she knew what was happening, Mr. Rodgers grabbed her shirt, pulled out a knife, and stabbed her 13 times.

It seemed surreal, she said, much like the trial in Wood County Common Pleas Court Thursday in which Mr. Rodgers, 35, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. The Bowling Green man was committed to a psychiatric hospital, but Ms. Andrich knows he will one day walk the streets.

“It scares me,” she said in an interview yesterday, adding that it's no consolation that she was a complete stranger to Mr. Rodgers. “I think it makes it even harder for the fact that he didn't have any reason to harm me in the first place.

“It makes you look at people you don't know in a whole different kind of light. I used to walk to work and see people I didn't know and I'd say good morning. Now, I walk into Wal-Mart and I pay attention to everyone I see, instead of looking at what's on the shelves.”

The incident, which left the 42-year-old mother of five with permanent nerve damage to her legs, has left her disillusioned with the justice system as well. She feels she received no justice.

“He should be guilty by reason of insanity,” Ms. Andrich said.

While Judge Reeve Kelsey ordered Mr. Rodgers confined to the highest security area of Northcoast Behavioral Care in Toledo indefinitely, the judge could release him once mental health professionals determine he is well enough to live on his own.

“He's a criminal. He should be behind bars. He should go to prison like anyone else found guilty of felonious assault,” Ms. Andrich said. “Maybe someday they'll restore him [to sanity] and then why shouldn't he be held accountable for his actions?”

The Wood County Prosecutor's Office did not contest Dr. Timothy Wynkoop's evaluation of Mr. Rodgers and his finding that Mr. Rodgers did not know what he was doing when he stabbed Ms. Andrich. Assistant Prosecutor Gwen Howe-Gebers said she was convinced other psychologists would reach the same conclusion. She knows that's no consolation to the victim, though.

“I don't think there's anything I can say that would help a victim in Laurie's case not necessarily understand it but agree with it or come to terms with it,” Ms. Howe-Gebers said. “It's a very difficult thing.”

She said Ms. Andrich and the prosecutor's office will have the opportunity to share their thoughts with the court in the future when Mr. Rodgers's case comes up for review or a decision about moving him into a lower-level security area of the hospital.

Ms. Andrich had hoped to share her thoughts at the trial but was not permitted to because her assailant was found not guilty by reason of insanity. She said that was disappointing, and she found it hard to control her anger when Mr. Rodgers' attorney told her afterward that his client was sorry.

“My response was, `How can he be sorry? He's insane. He can't think for himself,'” she said.

Other parts of the case bother her.

In her mind, Ms. Andrich said, Mr. Rodgers made several deliberate decisions that day: he chose not to take his medication, he chose to bring a knife with him from home, he chose to attack her as she walked alone with no one else around. If he was so psychotic that day, she asked, why didn't he lash out at a co-worker or others he passed before he saw her?

A witness testified that when he finally stopped stabbing her, he dropped the knife as he walked to his truck but bent down and picked it up. Authorities found the knife stuck into a telephone pole.

“It was very deliberate. He had the presence of mind to get rid of it,” she said.

It bothered her too when Dr. Wynkoop testified Thursday that Mr. Rodgers told him he expected to be hospitalized for at least three years.

“How can someone so psychotic put a time limit on how long it will take for him to get better?” Ms. Andrich asked.

For now, she has returned to work as a bartender at Jeff's Bar & Grill in Bradner. She says she was “very lucky” to have survived the stabbing.

“Basically, the only thing I could think of was to keep the knife away from my face and my heart,” she said. “I was pretty much sure he was going to kill me.”

Ms. Andrich's attorney, James Yavorcik, said he is researching whether his client has grounds to file a civil suit against Mr. Rodgers' employer. For now, he is making sure she receives benefits available to crime victims under Ohio's Crime Victim Compensation Act.



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