Michigan Teen Found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity

In every respect, this is a very sad and tragic story. 19-year-old David Kellen Grow, (who goes by Kellen), was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the case of brutally killing his mother Robin Grow, who was 49 years old.

The details of the case are horrendous, so much so that the prosecution did not dispute the fact that Kellen was insane.

Robin Grow was killed with a knife. The body was slashed open and her insides were spread across the floor. She was bruised and battered. A steak knife was found inside her chest. Her head sustained blunt force trauma.

Detectives and investigators said it was one of the most gruesome killings they had ever seen.

Kellen’s father, Ronald Grow, testified that he came home from work one evening and found his wife’s body on the kitchen floor. He called for his son who was fully clothed in the bathtub with his mother’s intestines wrapped around his neck.

His father asked Kellen “what have you done? Do you realize what you’ve done? Do you realize we are never going to be a family again? Do you realize in a couple of minutes, they’re going to take you away from me too?”

Mr. Grow said that his son then got the phone, called 911 and returned to the bathroom.

Mr. Grow told the court that he “saw something in his eyes change.”

Kellen then striped off his clothes and handed the phone to his father. A fight ensued and both men fell to the floor.

Kellen escaped the bathroom and returned to the body of his mother. He put his hands inside of her body and Mr. Grow attempted to push his son off of Mrs. Grow. He eventually punched his son in the shoulder, which stunned him and stopped him in his tracks.

The police soon arrived and handcuffed Kellen.

At the time of the killing, Kellen was psychotic. He had a history of mental illness. He had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at the age of four.

Prior to the murder, Kellen had been hearing command hallucinations to kill his mother. He believed that he could “shape shift” and thought that 2013, was the “end of days.”

Weeks before the killing, Kellen was hospitalized with psychosis. He was having delusions of a demon coming into his bedroom and harming him and his family.

Hospital reports show that he was unable to communicate, confused, mumbling, chanting, and was incoherent. He was involuntarily committed for short time but was later deemed appropriate for discharge.

Mr. Grow does not blame the doctors for releasing his son. He had been taking medication and was steadily improving every day.

The violence came as a “lightning bolt from the sky,” said Mr. Grow. They would’ve never taken him home from the hospital, if they believed that Kellen was capable of such violence.

Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Grow were very affectionate parents. Despite his autism disorder, Kellen was able to socially connect with people. He was well liked by others. He had never displayed any violent tendencies. He was an honor student.

By all accounts, they were a normal family.

On the morning of the murder, Mr. Grow witnessed Kellen hug, kiss and tell his mother that he loved her. She was not afraid of her son. They loved each other.

By all accounts, Kellen does not understand what he did to his mother. When asked about how he was feeling the day of the murder, during a competency evaluation, he said he was calm and stable.

“Should I feel this way… should I feel sad?” Kellen asked, according to the report. Kellen then began crying and stated that he misses his mother.

23 thoughts on “Michigan Teen Found Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity

  1. I wonder what type of evaluation they gave him at that hospital he was in that ‘deemed him appropriate to be discharged’ .. I also wonder what mental health professionals would make of this horrific thing “his son who was fully clothed in the bathtub with his mother’s intestines wrapped around his neck”.. I had to read that one several times it is horrific..

    • I read that a couple times too Pat. My stomach literally began to roll. The scene that Mr. Grow walked into, I cannot imagine his horror. He clearly was upset on the stand, distraught at having to have hit his son for the first time ever and knowing what his son had done, good Lord I hope he seeks therapy. This is incredibly tragic.

      • Then the son went back to her body & put his hands inside of her body, good Lord. Its almost as if in his own distorted mind he was trying to get close to her(?) if that’s possible. They cite his having ASD but that was just an additional clinical issue not what caused this crime, IMO his mental illness goes much deeper. I searched his name on the Internet & many articles to read on him & it seems they went back & forth as to whether or not he was competent to stand trial for this crime. Perhaps the Judge that ordered him OK to be released from that mental hospital a month before this crime took place could have weighed in on that. One article stated that his parents objected to that release so there was some sort of apprehension there & I was surprised that the Judge didn’t give that any weight in her decision. I was also trying to find out if Kellen was the natural son of Mr & Mrs Grow or if he was adopted & perhaps they did not have a clear history of his bio parents but I didn’t see anything like that out there. Just a guess. Truly sad, sad & horrific story

    • Perhaps.. I had to read several articles on it & this one: Psychosis and Violence:The Case for a Content Analysis of Psychotic
      Experience suggests that most of their behavior is predictable.. Just a quote..

      • I wouldn’t necessarily expect Kellen’s family to recognize the danger, although in another recent case they certainly did (I blogged about it here) and a tragedy still followed.

        I do, however, have to question why he was prematurely released from an involuntary commitment. Did the doctors not recognize the severity of his episode? Did the insurance company pull the plug thereby forcing the hospital to release him? Were the parents given adequate information regarding what warning signs to look for? Was proper medication involved (I highly suspect it was)? If so, was it ineffective or did he simply not take it? Is there no way this tragedy could have been avoided?

  2. I can’t even imagine what was going through the mothers mind. For her sake hope she died fast. Poor fatherr will have to live with this the rest of his life. You have to wonder what set the son off and if he’ll ever realize what he did.

  3. Wow! This is something you read about in fiction books – not real life. I wonder if there really was an autism disorder going on or if it could have been a mental illness in disguise early on. Or is it possible to have both. I hope that woman died quickly and didn’t suffer long.

      • Penny, since he was found “not guilty” by reason of insanity, I imagine he will be committed to a mental health facility. I don’t know if he would ever get out, it doesn’t seem likely.

          • Penny, true in some cases but…… Kellen was found NOT criminally responsible because he was legally insane when he killed his mom. As a result of the not guilty by reason of insanity “verdict” Kellen will spend the rest of his life (or a long period of time) in a maximum security treatment facility. That’s it, he won’t be going back for retrial even if he is mentally stable at some point.

            As a matter of fact, he was initially found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial. The judge ordered him to the State Center for Forensic Psychiatry and after treatment and medication he was found competent to stand trial. However, the center did a separate eval to determine his “criminal responsibility” and that was when they rendered him to be legally insane at the time of the murder. The legal proceeding was more like a plea hearing than a trial. It all comes down to state law and if he was “legally insane” which it was determined he was.

            Personally, I’m just glad that this individual will get treatment.

          • Tracy the last 8yrs. before I retired I worked for a pychiatrist. Unfortunatley a lot of mentally ill patients start feeling better then go off their meds. are put in the hospital put back on meds then are discharged. It is a never ending circle. I think this might be the case with Keller.

          • NGRI is a finding. Double jeopardy attaches. He will never stand trial for this crime again. He will be placed in the forensic unit of a State hospital until he is no longer a threat to himself or others (though the severity of the crime does factor into it, just ask John Hinkley Jr. who’s still a ward of the state due to his NGRI with Pres. Reagan).

            The thing that makes most juries uncomfortable with NGRI is that the person can be released the next day. The vast majority are never released from a mental facility the next day. The majority are kept for a very long time, with periodic judicial review, for up to the rest of their lives.

            The cases that make people wonder include cases where a brain tumor was directly responsible for a murder, and once the tumor was removed, the person went back to normal. Other cases include homicides committed while asleep (parasomnias – note, the defense doesn’t always work even when there’s marked evidence of sleep related violence prior to the homicidal episode).

            The worst cases for NGRI came from the ’70’s, like the Twinkie Defense. They essentially eviscerated what was left of the ability of many legitimate NGRI defenses to actually succeed.

            In this case, not only was there a question about his competence to stand trial, it was clear that the homicide was a result of severe mental illness. This is a case that should never have gone to criminal court. However, since the civil commitment procedures and hospital of the state failed the kid and family miserably, there didn’t appear to be any chance that the kid could ever get the help he needed without that NGRI finding.

            Thanks again to Carter and Reagan for eviscerating the mental health system in the US, making it impossible to get long term mental health care, especially for young people with emerging pathologies that show evidence of the potential for serious violence.

            I also want to note that the kid made no effort to hide his “crime” making it apparent that he had no appreciation that what he was doing was in fact a crime or wrong. I really do feel for that dad – he did everything he could to protect his family and lost both his wife and son as a result. These cases are truly tragic.

          • Bellkurve Thank you so much for your thoughts. The system fails in a lot of ways and this is just one incident. I hope for his sake and our’s he never gets let out.

      • That’s my question. Or will he be walking the streets again one day? He is seriously insane and should not ever be freed from an institutional environment. I agree tha this country needs to seriously examine how we deal with mental health problems learn to stop throwing barriers in the way of making SURE people like this get intervention and badly needed therapy without a lot of red tape and without asking their permission. Insane people don’t generally say, “Yes! Put me in a hospital!”.

        This is the stuff horror movies are made of and our system helps make it happen.

        • I heard on one of the blogs Kellen will never stand trial as he was deemed insane before any charges were brought against him.He may stay in the hospital forever or get out when they feel he is no longer a danger to himself or others. Scary thought huh? Well that our system.

        • He’s a young man with an emerging psychiatric disorder. If in say 10 years, a drug or implant or something render him as sane as any other person, what purpose would it serve to keep him hospitalized in a bed needed by somebody much more severely ill? This is not punishment; this is treatment. He’s not guilty. His insanity must be addressed, and he must be treated. But, if that treatment is effective and he can become a contributing member of society, what good does it serve to punish him for his illness?

          NGRI means treatment, not punishment. Some states are trying to work Guilty By Reason of Insanity type verdicts, where the person is treated for the mental condition first and then serves a punitive sentence, but GRIs are not held to the same standard of liability as otherwise sane people (the death penalty would never be on the table, and you can knock the culpability for the punishment down by at least one).

          But, generally, we don’t punish the ill. We treat them. Once they are treated, most have a very difficult time dealing with what they did during the course of their illness, which becomes another phase of therapy. Imagine if you woke up one day to find that you murdered somebody you loved – how would you cope?

          • I’m always amazed how parents forgive their mentally ill children for crimes like this. They obviously separate the behavior from the person trapped inside a diseased brain. This case is too awful to dwell on. It’s most helpless a parent can probably ever feel.

            I had a woman call me once about her schizophrenic son being held at the prison without treatment for a minor crime. I referred her to another attorney–a friend of mine, who succeeded at getting him released. A few months later I was watching the news and they were reporting a schizophrenic young man had just killed his father with a knife while they were mowing the lawn together or something like that. It was this woman’s husband, the same son. Later I heard that she forgave him and didn’t feel he should be punished because it was his illness that made him act out violently.

            It’s one of those situations in the human condition impossible to fully comprehend.

  4. it’s not just mental illness that allows a parent to forgive a child. Jeffrey Dahmer’s father was more involved with Jeff after his conviction than before. There are a myriad of cases like that of Thomas Whittaker where his father’s standing beside him even though none of the family was supposed to survive. Neither men were schizophrenic.

    It’s one of those things – parents can’t turn off the love of a child just because a child makes a mistake, even if that mistake is a premeditated murder. Everybody’s talking about how JA’s parents aren’t testifying for her, and seeing that as odd. Indeed, it is odd. It is the exception to the rule.

    • But Jodi Arias’ parents are not testifying for her because the defense will not allow them. Her mother told Jean Casarez that she wanted to testify for Jodi but the defense did not put her on the list. (And the father has had cancer for several years, he’s on dialysis in California and had a heart attack before jury selection.)

      The parents are willing–its the defense that will not allow them. It’s because of the cross examination from Juan that they know will follow, and that will reveal Jodi’s history of delinquent and willful behavior from a young age, including violence toward the mom and siblings, that the defense doesn’t want the jury to hear. It negates the false image she’s trying to give that this “mistake” was just one incident in her life and she was a normal person until Travis came along. It would also open the door to the video tapes of Jodi’s parents talking to Det. Flores about how secretive, out of control, deceptive and abusive toward her family she’s always been. And to cross examination on what the mother thinks about Jodi claiming the parents were the ones who abused her.

      Those people online insinuating that the parents not testifying means they refuse to testify in support of her don’t seem to understand that no witness has the right to decide they will testify. They have to be asked. And no one asks a witness if their testimony could do more harm than good. The defense doesn’t want Juan to touch Jodi’s mom and dad with a ten foot pole.

      • Maria I know you are right. This evil woman probably has a history that would make any jury shudder. She didn’t become this diabolical overnight. I’ll bet Juan knows plenty about her outside of the Travis murder — things he can’t bring up unless one of her parents testifies — and the defense is betting on that too. She’s a Bad Seed in the same vein as the old movie by that name – and there is no way the defense team OR Jodi want her parents on that stand.

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