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Santa Maria Hatchet Killer Could Be Released from State Hospital

Nick Bendle was 19 years old when he confessed to using a hatchet to nearly decapitate 69 year old Fred Holgate as Holgate was taking his routine early morning walk in Santa Maria back in August of 2009.

Eventually both the prosecution and defense agreed Bendle was legally insane at the time of the attack on Holgate.

The court heard Bendle had no prior criminal history or history of mental illness and that he suffered a “psychotic break” from undiagnosed schizophrenia.

The judge sent Bendle to the maximum security Patton State Hospital in San Bernadino.

Now after about three years of treatment, the 25 year old Bendle could be released to a minimum security, residential facility on his path to regaining his freedom.

“I think he got away with murder”, said Fred Holgate’s sister Barbara Clark in an exclusive interview with Central Coast News in August when it became apparent Bendle would soon be released from the Patton Hospital.

Clark said three or four years in state hospital confinement is not nearly long enough for her or Holgate’s widow who declined to talk on camera about Bendle’s imminent release.

“It scares me”, Clark said, “I know my sister-in-law is terribly frightened and she’s afraid to talk about it, but it scares me, he shouldn’t be released.”

Described as remarkable and unusual, both DA’s office and and Bendle’s Public Defender have told the judge doctors believe Bendle has achieved complete and total recovery from his apparent temporary mental illness and is ready to rejoin society.

Bendle is not expected to be in Santa Maria Court Thursday for the hearing about his release.

His Public Defender has told Central Coast News once he is released, Bendle has no intention of ever returning to Santa Maria.

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