BOSTON — Last November, Yvette Chappell found herself increasingly anxious that her 27-year-old son, Deshawn James Chappell, was spiraling downward into deep psychosis. He was exhibiting intense paranoia and calling late at night to complain about deafening voices in his head.
For over a year, Mr. Chappell, a schizophrenic with a violent criminal record, had seemed relatively stable in a state-financed group home in Charlestown. But after a fight with another resident, Mr. Chappell was shuttled from home to home, and his mother believed that he had fallen off his medication along the way.
Ms. Chappell said she had tried to communicate this concern to his caretakers, but it was not until mid-January that she found somebody who listened.
The woman introduced herself as Stephanie and said she would be Mr. Chappell’s counselor at his new group home in Revere. She confirmed that Mr. Chappell had stopped getting his antipsychotic injections but made his mother a promise: “She said: ‘Don’t worry. I’m going to get Deshawn back on track.’
“I thought everything was going to be O.K. because he had somebody who cared,” Ms. Chappell said, her voice breaking.
Two days after that conversation, Stephanie Moulton, a petite, street-smart 25-year-old, was dead, and Mr. Chappell was accused of murdering her. They had been alone at the Revere home, where, her family said, Ms. Moulton generally worked a solo shift. Mr. Chappell beat her, stabbed her repeatedly and then dumped her partially nude body in a church parking lot, prosecutors said.
The killing on Jan. 20 stunned the mental health care community in Massachusetts. The “shattering event,” as one former state mental health official called it, occurred days before Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, released his proposed budget, which would slash mental health spending for the third year in a row. And it raised the timely but uncomfortable question of whether such continuous belt-tightening had played a role in Ms. Moulton’s death.
By DEBORAH SONTAG
The New York Times