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Psych program eyed after NorCal slayings

FORT BRAGG, Calif., Sept. 18 (UPI) -- County supervisors in Northern California are considering changes in rules for mental-health diversion programs as they hunt for an elusive accused killer.

Aaron Bassler has been holed up in the deep woods of Mendocino County for four months after allegedly shooting two forestry workers -- one of them a Fort Bragg city councilman -- to death after he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia-like symptoms.

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Now county supervisors are using the manhunt around Fort Bragg to take another look at the rules regarding court-ordered psychiatric evaluations and pretrial diversion programs.

The Los Angeles Times said Sunday that Bassler's father, Jim, has urged changes that would force mentally ill defendants in the criminal justice system to undergo treatment beyond the initial examination, or at least inform family members of a potentially dangerous diagnosis.

"I am hoping there's some kind of change made," said Bassler. "He really wanted to hide his delusions from people. But being around him, it was a constant thing."

Some mental health professionals urged caution, saying there has been no proven link between the killings and Bassler's mental-health status.

A major question has been the small crop of opium poppies Bassler was allegedly tending in the area where the slayings occurred; however, officials note there were no significant clandestine marijuana patches in the area.

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