MU prof’s killer barred from Hamilton, will get more freedom

Tonda Ansley is allowed to leave mental health hospital for unsupervised excursions.

HAMILTON — The woman who gunned down a Miami University professor in 2002 is allowed unsupervised visits out of a mental health facility, but is barred from the city.

Tonda Lynn Ansley, 44, appeared Wednesday, March 24, before Butler County Common Pleas Judge Keith Spaeth to request increased privileges so she can have day passes away from Summit Behavioral Health in Cincinnati.

Ansley was found not guilty by reason of insanity for fatally shooting Sherry Lee Corbett, 55, her landlord and employer, on July 27, 2002, just blocks from Corbett’s home in the Dayton Lane Historic District where both women lived.

At the time, she believed Corbett — a historic preservationist — and others were drugging her, invading her dreams and plotting to kill her, according to court documents.

Her psychiatrist and two psychologists testified Wednesday that although Ansley has a delusional disorder that requires medication, she has insight into her mental illness, has been in full and sustained remission for several years, and poses low risk to public safety or herself.

“In 2002, this defendant in her psychiatric illness shot and killed a respected citizen of this community here in the street in Hamilton,” Spaeth said, adding it was her intent to also harm others. “It is very difficult as a member of the community to be a lay person and to develop an appreciation of how the court could think that in eight to nine years we go from there to the defendant walking the streets unrestricted.”

Spaeth ruled the state did not prove its burden that Ansley posed a threat, and he allowed her status to be downgraded so she could have more freedoms. Ohio law requires those found not guilty by reason of insanity to be held in the "least-restrictive" manner. However, Spaeth did bar Ansley from the city of Hamilton, except for court hearings, and Pennsylvania. She also is prohibited from any contact with two other intended victims, Corbett’s business partner Robert Sherwin and Brett Ansley, her ex-husband.

Ansley sat quietly next to her attorney, Melynda Cook, as she followed the proceeding, after which she thanked her lawyer. “Tonda deals every day with the remorse for her actions,” Cook said following the hearing, noting that Ansley had been Corbett’s student and considered her a friend. As far as a relapse, “she says that’s never going to happen.”

Her first unsupervised visit likely will be to see her mother in Cincinnati, who is in her late 60s and has limited mobility, Cook said. Ansley also plans to participate in a rehabilitation program and possibly take classes as she pursues her creative interests in woodworking and glass-blowing, she said.

The day passes to leave the mental hospital initially would be restricted to three to four hours, about once or twice a week, according to her psychologist, Michael Borack. For each pass she would have to make a request outlining where she is going and for how long, and staff would make calls before and after each visit for confirmation.

“I would continue to have the same level of contact that I do with her now,” said Borack, who testified he meets with Ansley twice weekly, once individually and once in group therapy.

Dr. Michael A. Gureasko, Ansley’s psychiatrist, testified her form of mental illness is “slow and insidious” and would take weeks or months to become severe. “If someone like Ms. Ansley is taking her medication I would think the chance of (an incident) happening is extremely low,” he said.

Also, because she takes an injectable form of an anti-psychotic medication, the staff ensures compliance. Before treatment, she didn’t have insight into her disorder, but she does now, he said.

About the Author