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Hearing pushed back

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The probable cause hearing for a convicted murderer who was scheduled to be released from prison last week was rescheduled for Oct. 21.

On the new hearing date, a judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to continue with Eau Claire Attorney General Rich White’s petition to have Jeffrey A. Smith committed to a mental institution indefinitely.

Court records say Smith, 48, of Altoona has been diagnosed as a sexual sadist, has an anti-social personality disorder and is a risk to engage in sexual violence.

He also was diagnosed with paraphilia – having sexual feelings or behaviors involving nonconsenting sexual partners and possible suffering by one or both partners.

Smith was convicted of second-degree murder and sexual assault in 1987 for strangling non-traditional student Susan Fahrman with a shoelace in her Eau Claire home.

He was sentenced to 25 years in prison but was scheduled to be released from Redgranite Correctional Institution Sept. 23 after serving 16 years and eight months.

White said a recent psychological evaluation by the state Department of Corrections found Smith meets the criteria of a sexually violent person. Tests also show Smith has a high degree of psychopathy.

Smith’s attorney, John Wabaunsee of La Crosse said state officials have admitted there is a wide range of opinion on Smith.

“I think there’s already been a lot of prejudicial media attention,” Wabaunsee said. “(Smith) accepted responsibility for his actions.”

He said one expert in White’s petition said Smith doesn’t meet the criteria for committment. Nobody argued with Smith’s sentence when it was handed down in 1987, Wabaunsee said.

Officials say Smith has completed the most intensive sex offender treatment program in the state prison system, but it is not enough to reduce his risk to the community.

– The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.
Hearing pushed back