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Throat Slasher Who Thought He Was Jesus One Step Closer to Sanity

Sam Wellington Maphis V to Be Transferred to Less-Secure Psychiatric Facility in Sylmar

Photo: CourtesySam Wellington

A Santa Barbara man who believed he was Jesus Christ and had been found guilty by reason of insanity for nonfatally slashing the throat of a woman at his uncle’s dinner party six years ago moved one step closer toward the legal restoration of his sanity on Monday morning. “You’ve done well, and you’ve made progress, and I hope and wish this progress continues,” Judge Brian Hill told Sam Wellington Maphis V as he approved Maphis’s transfer from maximum-security Patton State Hospital to a less-secure psychiatric facility in Sylmar, where he would be eligible for regular outings and, in as little as two years, intensely supervised outpatient release.

Prosecuting attorney Marguerite Charles argued against the transfer, highlighting a pattern of violent behavior starting at age 17, when Maphis was seized by paranoid delusions and loud, frequent auditory hallucinations that didn’t let go until a year ago. What happens if he stops taking his medications again, Charles asked, as he did in 2013?

Hill, however, was persuaded by Dr. Steven Galarza, staff psychiatrist at Patton, and by Dr. Scott Stella, a forensic psychologist at Sylmar, who both testified that Maphis ​— ​thanks to higher dosages of psychotropic medications ​— ​had stabilized considerably over the past three years and was far less susceptible to what were described as “hyper-religious” delusions and hallucinations.

Although Maphis resembles popular depictions of Jesus Christ, Galarza said Maphis is no longer inclined to preach when that resemblance is remarked upon. Instead, he’s avidly pursued all therapeutic opportunities offered at Patton, taking his meds without issue and displaying a sharp awareness of his mental-health condition.

At Sylmar, Maphis will be placed in a forensic wing with 20 others convicted of serious crimes and trained in how to manage his mood fluctuations and function in a less-restrictive setting. Should Maphis refuse his meds or relapse, Hill was told, he’d be sent back to Patton. 

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