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Concerns raised by accused killer living in Littleton

March 24, 2010
LITTLETON–Concerns and questions have been raised about an accused murderer released to a halfway house in town.

Over the weekend Police Chief Paul Smith began receiving numerous emails and phone calls expressing concern over the release of James Mann, 47, who was accused of killing 14-year old Jasmine Steele in Chatham in 2005 by shooting her in the back of the head.

The Steele's landlord, Linda Miles, was shot in the face, losing an eye.

Mann was found incompetent to stand trial and was put in a secured psychiatric ward of the State Mental Hospital. He was released sometime last year and put in a halfway house somewhere in the Conway area, according to the girl's mother, Charlene Steele. No one told the Steeles he was in the Conway area.

"He has his rights. What about our rights?" Steele said.

There was concern in the Conway area of a confrontation with the Steele family and Mann was moved to a halfway house in Littleton, Steele said. She contacted Sen. Jeb Bradley's office, who contacted the Attorney General's office to try and see why Mann had been released.

In a letter Bradley wrote to Attorney General Michael Delaney noted, "This transfer should raise all kinds of alarms…[g]iven his history, if he is not competent to stand trial then why is he in a halfway house?"

In a recent interview, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin said the Attorney General's office had not been kept apprised of Mann's whereabouts because he was no longer in the criminal justice system. He had been released to the mental health system which was bound by rules of confidentiality, which also kept the criminal justice system out of the loop, he said.

As to whether Mann and his case were actively being reexamined by the Attorney General, Strelzin couldn't say, though he said all similar cases are reexamined occasionally and that sometimes a person previously said to have been unfit to stand trial may found to be fit at a later date.

Smith said he understood the concerns of residents about Mann and that "we're committed to the safety of the community."

He said he was bound by HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations as observed by local mental health agencies. He said that there was some concern by residents that Mann might in the Gilpin House, which is a halfway house located at the corner of High Street and Maple Street and near Littleton High School and Littleton Academy. He assured residents that was not the case but could not say where exactly Mann was staying.

Smith said there was still a lot of information about Mann that he didn't have, but noted Mann was not a convicted murderer but an accused killer. Still, considering the circumstances surrounding his release he understood everyone's concern.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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