BRATTLEBORO -- Marshall Dean has a criminal record covering more than three decades, and he’s now accused of what a judge calls a "bizarre" crime: Breaking into a Putney home where police found him perched on a sink, naked and bleeding.
But a doctor who examined Dean after the incident last month believes the 52-year-old Putney resident may suffer from a post-concussive syndrome as well as a sleep disorder that causes him to act out his dreams.
Those contentions weren’t enough to persuade Judge David Suntag to allow Dean to be released from prison, where he remains held without bail. But some say the possible diagnoses may go a long way toward explaining Dean’s alleged behavior.
"It was a very scary situation for a lot of people, including Marshall," defense attorney Joanne Baltz said. "Now that somebody is trying to put a name to it and find a treatment for it, we’d like to proceed with that."
Vermont State Police were notified of a burglar alarm at the Fred Houghton Road residence, which is not far from Dean’s home, just after midnight Nov. 3.
"As I approached the front of the residence, I could see through an enclosed screen porch that one of the three-pane French doors to the residence was shattered," State Police Sgt. Jeffrey Trudeau wrote in an affidavit.
Troopers also noted "a small amount of blood on a shard of glass on the floor of the porch."
They searched the first and second floors as well as the attic and basement of the home before Trudeau entered a small half-bathroom.
"I then observed an unclothed male subject attempting to avoid discovery, seated with his whole body on top of the sink," he wrote. "I immediately ordered the subject to show me his hands and to get down on the floor."
The suspect was bleeding from "numerous lacerations all over his body," the affidavit says, and an ambulance was called to the scene.
In the meantime, Dean told police that he had fled his home "because someone had entered his house and threatened his life." He was "very confused about the details," Trudeau wrote, and "alleged that three to four black males with dark-colored automatic pistols (were) chasing him."
Dean described closing the bedroom door at his home, jumping out his smashed bedroom window and then running to the nearby residence, where he hid under a deck before breaking in.
Dean told troopers that, "on two other occasions in the last month, he has reported people being inside his own home," Trudeau wrote. "I was aware of these reports to VSP, which were unfounded."
Troopers went to Dean’s home and found it in disarray. His girlfriend told investigators that "she spent the majority of the day with the defendant and that this evening he had a weird look on his face and all of a sudden lost it."
The girlfriend also said she was "unaware if the defendant had taken any drugs this evening other than his prescribed Percocets."
Damages and cleanup costs at the residence Dean had broken into were estimated at more than $1,500, police said. Dean was charged with unlawful trespass and unlawful mischief, both felony counts.
Because his extensive criminal record includes several felony convictions, Dean was charged in this case as a habitual offender and faces a potential life sentence.
The subject of a hearing Wednesday in Windham Superior Court Criminal Division was whether Suntag should allow Dean to be released from prison pending the case’s resolution.
"We are asking the court to exercise its discretion and release Mr. Dean on a set of conditions," Baltz told the judge.
The defense called a friend of Dean’s to the stand. She testified that she is willing to allow Dean, if he is released from custody, to live at her Perkinsville home.
The majority of Baltz’s presentation, however, consisted of testimony from Dr. Mark McGee, a Brattleboro Retreat psychiatrist. Testifying via phone, McGee said Dean "has a history of multiple, traumatic brain injuries" that may have played a role in his behavior.
"It’s my opinion ... that he suffers from a post-concussive syndrome," McGee said. "And that causes some cognitive impairments, specifically disinhibition."
The doctor also said he believes Dean has a condition called REM (rapid eye movement) sleep-behavior disorder. That means Dean sometimes lacks "the normal paralysis that keeps most healthy individuals from physically acting out their dreams," McGee said.
And on the night in question, "it is my medical opinion that he was in the midst of an episode of REM sleep, or dream sleep, and he was acting out the contents of dreams in a behavioral fashion," McGee said.
Approximately one in four individuals with "chronic, traumatic brain injury such as Mr. Dean has suffered will demonstrate this condition," he added.
The doctor also said Dean responded well to a short trial of medication at the Retreat. He recommended more such treatment.
"If adequately treated, I would think that the likelihood of a recurrence is quite low," McGee said. "If he’s not appropriately treated, I would suspect that the likelihood of a recurrence is quite high."
Under questioning from Windham County Deputy State’s Attorney Steven Brown, McGee acknowledged that a sleep study is needed to confirm the diagnosis.
That has not happened yet. Nor has any treatment for Dean’s acknowledged, long-term issues with drugs and alcohol; prosecutors believe such issues may be a bigger factor in Dean’s behavior.
"The state is not convinced that this is a medical issue," Brown said. "If anything, the state thinks it’s an issue that’s probably brought on by drug and alcohol abuse."
Brown added that "to release the defendant into the community at this point, I think, is a dangerous move. He’s just not ready to be in the community."
Baltz had argued that her client’s best chance for corrective treatment would come only when he was released from prison.
But Suntag said Dean’s criminal history, which includes five felony convictions and 25 misdemeanor convictions, is "very difficult to overcome."
The judge ruled that Dean should continue to be held without bail pending further court proceedings. Suntag, while noting McGee’s clinical opinions, said Dean’s alleged actions on Nov. 3 "created a scenario that could have easily resulted in somebody getting hurt."
"The offense here, frankly, is bizarre," Suntag said.