Pensacola, Florida
Friday July 19th 2019

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DCF ‘Transitions’ Insane Killers

By Mollye Barrows

Two Santa Rosa County men who brutally killed their mothers—and whom State Attorney Bill Eddins promised would never be released from custody—will be transitioned to a lower-security program at the Florida State Hospital, and it appears state prosecutors can do little to stop it.

Mental health professionals have recommended that Brandon Aydelott, 23, and Chris Lynch, 40, both of whom were found not guilty by reason of insanity, be moved from a high-security facility at the Florida State Hospital to a less secure one on the hospital grounds. In fact, DCF has already relocated Aydelott. Friends and family of Brandon’s mom, Sharon, are appalled the confessed killer is one step closer to returning to the community.

“If you’ll kill your good, sweet, loving mother, you’ll kill anybody,” said Pamela Hill, Sharon Aydelott’s sister. “My heart breaks when I think of what my sister went through at the hands of her own son she loved so much. I didn’t mind Brandon going to the mental hospital, but I sure don’t ever want him out, that’s for certain.”

Voices Made Him Kill
Aydelott confessed that “voices” told him to brutally butcher his mother, Sharon Aydelott, 48, on Christmas Eve 2013 when he was only 17 years old. According to police reports, the Gulf Breeze High School senior took a butcher knife from his father’s apartment where he lived, drove to Sharon’s house and without provocation attacked his unsuspecting mother in the foyer of her home as soon as she opened the door. Sharon had been expecting him that night to go with her and his younger sister to Christmas Eve church services and a family party.

Aydelott repeatedly stabbed and beat the popular Holley-Navarre Middle School science teacher, stopping twice long enough to retrieve more knives and his baseball bat. The medical examiner also found shoeprints where he stomped on her face, and the autopsy report revealed he shoved two knives in her right eye so hard that he broke the handle off of one. The medical examiner had to use orthopedic surgical tools to remove it.

The talented baseball pitcher and Gulf Breeze High School honor roll student was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. It took nearly three years for him to be found competent to stand trial, and after a one-day trial in October 2016, the court acquitted Aydelott of murdering his mother by reason of insanity and ordered him to a secure hospital for treatment. He was placed in Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, a state facility run by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for the criminally insane.

“I was under the belief that what State Attorney Bill Eddins said was true,” said Hill, “that he would never get out. That was the only piece I took from the trial that gave me comfort, that my sister is in heaven and that Brandon couldn’t get out and hurt anybody again.”

Bludgeoned to Death
Two years ago, on Mother’s Day, 40-year-old Chris Lynch bludgeoned his mother, Cheryl Lynch, to death with an iron rod. Deputies found him covered in blood and his mother barely alive on the front porch of her Pace home. She told them Lynch had been hitting her before she succumbed to her injuries. He also tried to attack deputies, and they used a taser to subdue him.

Lynch told them he didn’t remember killing his mother, who cared for after the U.S. Army veteran suffered a traumatic brain injury while training in 2000. His mom had become a well-known advocate for better mental health and medical care for her son and other veterans. She once led a web chat with insight on how to cope with life-changing brain injuries.

“Veterans who have suffered a brain injury and their caregivers are often left with a feeling of isolation,” Cheryl Lynch wrote. “Through our forum and chat room, we hope to reduce that isolation by gaining a sense of friendship with others who understand.”

Lynch told authorities he did not remember beating his mom to death, and several medical professionals testified that he was psychotic and insane at the time of her death. In April 2018, a judge found him not guilty of second-degree murder by reason of insanity and also remanded him to Florida State Hospital.

Transition to Freedom?
After Aydelott’s trial, Eddins assured the public that the confessed killer would “never get out” of the mental institution. He explained his office would have to be notified of any change in the inmate’s status. The State Attorney’s Office would protest any effort for him to be released or go to a less restrictive unit. However, that didn’t happen when the DCF filed a notice on March 12 recommending Aydelott be moved to Civil Transition, a lower-security program at the state hospital.

Prosecutors say they never saw the notice, in part because the DCF notice was sent to the Santa Rosa County Courthouse and never forwarded it to them. The deadline for Eddins and his staff to protest lapsed, and Aydelott was moved to Civil Transition on April 2. The State Attorney’s Office didn’t become aware of the transfer until Aydelott’s family called the office.

According to DCF’s website, Civil Transition is for residents who “no longer need that level of security and, with court approval, may reside in a lesser-restrictive civil environment.” The program’s stated treatment plan is to give residents the skills and resources they need to successfully transition back into the community or to another less restrictive program, like a group home.

One year since Lynch was acquitted for beating his mom to death, DCF says he is also ready to move from a higher-security unit to the transition program.

“They both killed their own mommies, and they had two of the best mommies on the planet,” said Hill. “I question the timing and the miraculous, so-called ‘recovery’ of these two that they can advance to Civil Transition. I’ve seen no change for the better with Brandon, but I can tell you he’s heavily medicated.”

She continued, “And that’s the first thing people do when they get out a mental institution is quit taking their medicines.”

No one from Florida State Hospital has asked or recommended to the court that Aydelott or Lynch be released from Florida State Hospital, but some friends and family fear he eventually could be and in far less time than they expected.

Holley-Navarre Middle School Principal Joie DeStefano was a longtime friend, confidante and administrator of Sharon Aydelott’s. Sharon taught science at the middle school for 15 years, and DeStefano watched Sharon’s children grow up. The working mother often brought them to school with her when she was helping with extracurricular activities.

“As long as he’s meeting the requirements they want, I have no problem with him staying for years in that facility and remaining on the hospital grounds under supervision and under supervised medications,” said DeStefano. “It’s the possibility that this next step—of him being on the outside—that is disturbing. He is capable of terrible violence.”

Circuit Judge J. Scott Duncan had scheduled a hearing for May 22 to determine if the state had jurisdiction to protest the transition, but Inweekly has learned that it has been cancelled. The court says prosecutors can’t interfere with the treatment team’s decision unless the men no longer meet the criteria for involuntary commitment.

The State Attorney’s Office is declining to comment while the matter is ongoing. A DCF spokesperson says they are reviewing Aydelott’s case and have not yet returned calls for comment. For Sharon’s family, the move is part of their ongoing nightmare since Aydelott murdered his mom, and they wonder now if the court made the right verdict.

Even though he’s still under 24-hour supervision, Aydelott’s aunt doesn’t want him given the greater freedom that Civil Transition offers. She has begun to second guess her decision to support her nephew’s insanity plea.

“He’s a murderer,” said Hill. “What he did to my sister, it was premeditated; it was planned; it was barbaric. There is nothing that would explain the logic of either one of them being moved back into society, nothing.”

She added, “I don’t think our community, our family, should be used as the guinea pig to see if they’re okay or not.”