VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia (MCT) — More than a year after his release from jail - and nearly two years after a psychotic episode spurred him to vandalize homes and cars in his neighborhood - Navy veteran Ted Olsen has been allowed to move back into his home on Loveland Lane.
Olsen had spent most of a year locked up on felony vandalism charges before a judge accepted his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity last summer. The former Navy Seabee was released under the condition that he receive regular psychiatric care while living with his stepfather in Newport News - a 40-minute drive from the cul-de-sac where he spray-painted houses and cars while suffering auditory hallucinations in November 2012.
Olsen's struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and his protracted journey through the court system was detailed in The Virginian-Pilot last year in a story called "The War Next Door." The story posed a question that seems particularly relevant in a region populated by thousands of war veterans, many of whom carry mental scars: "Can a broken man be restored and come home again?"
For Olsen, at least, the answer seems to be: Yes, but. Life back home probably won't ever be the same again.
For more than a year, Olsen followed the court's conditions. He attended his required medical appointments; he passed his drug and alcohol screenings; he visited his house in Virginia Beach only when permitted, with a few exceptions.
In March, despite protests from a few residents who said they still didn't want their neighbor to return, a judge ruled that Olsen could spend four nights a week at the house. Five months later, on Aug. 20, the judge decided Olsen had proven that he could be allowed to live at the home full time, so long as he continues to check in with a his psychiatrist and case worker.
Olsen seemed in good spirits at his home on Loveland last week, two days after the ruling. He's once again competing in triathlons, a passion of his before his breakdown two years ago. And he hasn't had any trouble with his neighbors and former friends from across the street - though they typically don't interact with him.
Olsen hopes his story will spur local officials to start a veterans court, a program popular in other parts of the country that allows former service members accused of a crime access to psychiatric care early in the legal process.
He didn't wish to be interviewed for this story, though.
Mike Hixenbaugh, 757-446-2949, firstname.lastname@example.org
©2014 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.). Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.