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Defense blames Lourdes hospital in Carlisle killing

BY KAT RUSSELL krussell@paducahsun.com

A motion to dismiss the charges against a Bardwell woman accused of shooting and killing her husband alleges that Lourdes hospital failed to ensure the woman received proper mental health care prior to the shooting.

Martha Ligon, 68, was charged with one count of murder and four counts of attempted murder after she allegedly shot at bystanders on July 1, 2016, in a Carlisle County neighborhood, then fatally shot her husband and wounded another man.

In a motion requesting the charges be dropped, defense attorneys Billy McGee and Ryan Yates allege the shootings might have been prevented had Lourdes hospital intervened.

Lourdes declined to comment to the Sun about the allegation.

According to the document, Ligon was brought into the Lourdes emergency room April 19, 2016, after police saw her driving erratically and stopped her.

The motion states that ER personnel noted Ligon was "aggressive and yelling" due to "psychosis with behavioral disturbances" and had to be restrained. The hospital's intake coordinator's notes indicate Ligon was paranoid and delusional and feared people were trying to kill her. The motion also states a mental health warrant was filled out that day but not filed.

A mental health warrant is similar to an arrest warrant without the criminal implications. When a mental health warrant is filed, law enforcement is notified and the person is picked up and taken for a mental health evaluation and, if deemed appropriate, admitted to a mental health facility.

Ligon's defense team contends that Lourdes personnel tucked their client's mental health warrant into a drawer, along with some 70 others, and did not file the paperwork until December 2016, months after the shootings.

Additionally, the defense's motion claims Lourdes personnel failed to provide accurate mental health information when communicating with other medical professionals and social workers involved in Ligon's care.

On May 31, 2016, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family services received reports that Ligon was "very paranoid and delusional," claiming "someone stole her dog and replaced it with another one just like it." Clinical social worker Steven Wright was assigned to her case. The defense claims Wright "made numerous attempts to secure a mental health warrant for Ligon, but was unable to do so "because his investigation found no evidence of violence associated with Ligon's delusions."

As part of his investigation, Wright interviewed Lourdes employees who had previous contact with Ligon. The motion alleges the employees "withheld â ¦ relevant treatment information regarding recent history of significant violence associated with Ligon's delusions," which interfered with Wright's ability to get the warrant.

Unable to proceed further, Wright closed his investigation three days before the shooting, according to the motion.

"These breakdowns in the mental health system â ¦ violated Ligon's right to equal protection under the Kentucky Mental Health Act," the motion reads. "The result was a mentally ill patient and the public were denied protection."

The day of the shootings, Kentucky State Police said Ligon was driving in the Milburn area with her husband -- Ray Ligon, 83 -- when she began following another vehicle, apparently at random.

Police said Ligon stopped near a residence, exited the vehicle and began shooting at people standing nearby. No one was injured during this incident.

Ligon then got back into the vehicle and drove away, heading north on Ky. 307. Police said Ligon then shot her husband in the neck and stopped in the road.

That's when Shane Courtney, 28, of Arlington, pulled up beside Ligon's vehicle and offered help. Police said when Courtney stopped, Ligon shot him in the right shoulder.

When police responded, Ligon was found down the road, walking at a nearby intersection still carrying the weapon. After her arrest, she was court-ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation at Kentucky Correction Psychiatric Center, where she was evaluated for two months.

In her report, state psychiatrist Dr. Amy J. Trivette noted when Ligon arrived, she had no knowledge of her husband's death. It wasn't until Ligon was properly medicated that she realized what had happened. The doctor also reported that Ligon described hearing voices and suffering delusions for about two months prior to the shootings.

Trivette determined Ligon was suffering from untreated psychosis and "was unable to conform her conduct to the requirements of the law at the time of the alleged (shootings)."

Commonwealth Attorney Mike Stacey, who is prosecuting the case, said his office has received the motion and expects to file a written response next week.

The motion is scheduled to be heard in Carlisle Circuit Court on April 28.

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