Conditional Release Denied For Heidi Mann
Heidi Mann, the Rib Lake woman who is serving time in the Winnebago Mental Health Institute for attempting to take her own life and the lives of 4 of her children was in Taylor County Court requesting a conditional release. The first person to testify on the second day of testimony was Kylie Fitzgerald of Taylor County Human Services. Ms. Fitzgerald testified in closed session for nearly an hour. When open court convened, Heidi Mann took the witness stand. She expressed her frustration with human services for allowing her husband to supervise the visits at Winnebago with her 3 youngest children. She told the court that the kids want more ‘mommy’ time. She expressed her frustration that she needed her husband’s permission to speak with the kids on the phone. D.A. Kristi Tlusty told Mann that this was a high profile case and that everyone in their small town knew what she tried to do to her children. If she was to be released, would she be able to handle the everyday stressors? The D.A. told Mann that in Winnebago there are specialists who help you handle the day to day stress. Fighting back tears, Heidi Mann told the court “I love my kids, I tried to get help, I want my kids to heal”.
Mark Mann was called to the stand. He told the court he has taken their 3 youngest children to Winnebago for visits with their mom every-other weekend. He indicated the 3 older children don’t want to see her. Mr. Mann was asked about the couple’s impending divorce. He testified that he believed in working through problems. But when he discovered that his wife was in an intimate relationship with another man, he didn’t think that was in the best interest of the children.
In closing D.A. Tlusty told the court that Heidi Mann’s present mental status is “stable”. But she said it should be as she is on medications and under structured programs in an institution. D.A. Tlusty told the court the nature and circumstances of the crime was the most important factor. She said: “It’s not often that a parent attempts to kill their children”. She scolded Mann and said it was difficult to understand how she was able to have religious beliefs that if she killed her kids, she would go to heaven. Ms. Tlusty finished by asking the court to deny the release because she wasn’t willing to gamble on the lives of innocent children.
Heidi Mann’s attorney Karl Kelz talked about the conflicting opinions of the 3 specialists. He said, this is not an exact science but one of the psychiatrists issued a glowing report. He cited one doctor’s opinion that Mann could suffer a relapse in 6 to 10 years as “Pretty Speculative”. Kelz told the court that while it’s a hot button issue, he was requesting a conditional release with supervision.
Judge Ann Knox-Bauer indicated that Heidi Mann had the right to request the conditional release, which she did in July. The judge indicated her decision was guided by the doctor’s reports and other issues including: the nature of the crime and where would she live? The doctor’s testimony made mention of psychotic features, the idea that the kids would be better off dead than going through divorce. The judge continued saying that Heidi Mann thought for days what to do with her children, concluding that heaven was better than Mark and his family. The judge stated that past behavior is a fair predictor of future behavior and that Winnebago is a more controlled setting to address Ms. Mann’s health needs. The judge concluded by saying: “Release at this time would be a recipe for disaster for the community, family, friends and most importantly, Ms. Mann.” Heidi Mann can apply to the court for conditional release again in six months.