ELGIN, Ill. -- The Illinois Appellate Court has reversed the involuntary commitment of man who confessed to the ax slaying of his 8- year-old stepbrother and claimed he was married to Olivia Newton-John and Cher.
But Lake County State's Attorney Michael Waller said Thursday that the court order releasing Ralph Nau from the Elgin Mental Health Center does not take effect for 21 days, allowing plenty of time for prosecutors to ensure he does not end up back on the streets.
'Despite this decision, we expect Ralph Nau will be committed for a long, long time,' Waller said.
Nau admitted killing 8-year-old Dennis Gerken, on Aug. 8, 1984, on his mother's Antioch farm. He told police he took the sleeping child from his bed to a cornfield, where killed the child with an ax because 'he had turned into an animal.'
Nau was acquitted of murder charges after a Lake County judge supressed the confession on grounds the defendant was legally insane at the time it was given. Because the confession was the only evidence against him, prosecutors were forced to drop their case.
However, a Kane County judge in 1989 ruled Nau was a danger to himself and others and ordered his continued confinement at the Elgin facility.
During the commitment hearing, Nau's relatives, private investigators and others testified that he claimed to have been married to Cher and Newton-John and had even traveled to Australia and Las Vegas in search of the stars shortly before the killing.
Investigators said Nay has written thousands of letters to stars such as Vanna White, Madonna and Marie Osmond during his institutionalization He also claims he is the true father of Farrah Fawcett's child by Ryan O'Neal, and was told by Mary Hart that they 'would make a handsome couple.'
In its ruling last Friday, the appeals panel said the Elgin Mental Health Center violated state law when it gave Nau a copy of its petition before the commitment request was filed with the court.
'The mental health code requires that a petition and notice of hearing be prepared under the (court's) direction,' said Nau's attorney, William Coffin. 'It was clear to the appeals court that this one was issued by the Elgin Mental Health Center before the court knew anything about it.'
Waller said a similar case is pending before the Illinois State Supreme Court and officials are hopeful the high court will use that case to rule confinement orders such as Nau's are legal.
If that does not happen, however, Waller said Lake County will file its own appeal with the high court.