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Judge Orders Hatchet Killer Be Released From State Hospital

Five years after a man admitted to killing an elderly man with a hatchet, a Santa Maria judge has decided to release him from a maximum security state hospital and transfer him to a residential treatment facility.

That decision was made after 2 p.m. Thursday by Santa Maria Judge John McGregor.

McGregor ordered that Nick Bendle be transferred from the Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino to a minimum security facility in Los Angeles.

Bendle attacked and killed 69-year-old Fred Houlgate, of Santa Maria, with a stolen hatchet in 2009.

The news of Bendle’s release from a maximum security facility is raising questions for people in the community.

Bob Thompson said he is “not really thrilled about” Bendle’s release knowing that “he murdered someone with a hatchet.”

Defense attorneys said at the time Bendle killed Houlgate, he was suffering from a “psychotic break” brought on by undiagnosed schizophrenia.

Bendle was not in court Thursday. He will spend 90 days at Gateways Hospital in Los Angeles before transferring to a residential boarding care facility in Ventura.

District attorney, Kevin Duffy, said if Bendle is not in full compliance with the treatment plan he will return to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino.

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