PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A week after the unexpected attack in their Richland Township home, a father and daughter are turning their tragedy into advocacy for families of schizophrenics.

Levi Staver’s mother and grandfather launched a crusade Wednesday. They remember the bright, inquisitive, artistic young man who started changing at age 13.

“He became depressed,” said Ruth Johnston, Levi’s mother. “He would wander in the woods at night. He couldn’t concentrate; he couldn’t learn.”

The condition only worsened as the darker Levi steadily pushed the bright young man into the shadows of his brain, beyond reach.

“We could see that something progressive was going on,” said Rev. David Johnston, Levi’s grandfather. “He became more hidden away, less contact.”

Despite thinking his grandmother wanted to kill him, Levi never showed signs of being a threat to anyone.

“The psychiatrist at Presby called me and said, ‘I’m sorry, I know he’s sick, but he doesn’t meet the criteria for involuntary,” said Ruth.

Fears weren’t enough to get Levi committed. He’s been a legal adult for eight years.

“He did not believe he needed help, and this is the problem,” Ruth added.

The family’s proof came too late with the stabbing death of Levi’s grandmother, 76-year-old Connie Johnston last week.

“And if we started hospitalizing everybody who was having some difficulty differentiating reality and fantasy there aren’t enough hotel rooms in this country,” said Paul J. Friday, PH.D., of Shadyside Psychological Services.

KDKA Radio’s Bill Rehkopf interviews Dr. Friday:

Dr. Friday says the mental health laws are designed to protect a person’s freedoms against false commitment.

But the Johnstons say the views of family members who live with the patient everyday need to have more legal weight. That’s the case they took to State Rep. Mike Turzai’s office on Wednesday.

“Very sympathetic and no one really knows what to do about this,” said Ruth. “Everybody knows there are families like us out there, struggling and a lot of people don’t know what can be done, what needs to be done. So, we gave them a little bit of information.”

The Johnstons left the office saying they will stay in touch with Turzai and his office to make sure something happens in Harrisburg.

But that’s not all; Levi’s mother says she’s also going to work with national advocacy groups who work on behalf of families with schizophrenics.

Man Allegedly Stabs Grandmother To Death, Blames “Archangel Michael” (2/19/13)
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