Eight years after beheading his son, Joseph Hagerman will live in an adult foster care facility

By Steve Helling
May 10, 2017 11:42 AM

Eight years after Joseph Hagerman II decapitated his young son, he has been declared ready to be released from a state psychiatric hospital.

According to court documents obtained by PEOPLE, 5-year-old Joshua Hagerman was putting his toys away in the family’s living room in February 2009 when his father attacked him with a serrated kitchen knife. The boy’s mother, Shirley Hagerman, sustained serious cuts as she tried to wrestle the knife away from her husband. But she was unsuccessful, and Hagerman decapitated the boy, the documents state.

Both the prosecution and defense agreed that Hagerman had killed his son. Both sides cited multiple mental health experts who believed that Hagerman, who suffers from schizophrenia, was insane at the time of the killing.

In May 2009, Joseph Hagerman was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was committed to Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia, for treatment. Prosecutors did not dispute the finding after all the mental health experts who evaluated him agreed he was insane at the time of the killing.

In the days before the incident, Hagerman was not taking his psychiatric medications. His wife told police that he would pray and read the Bible obsessively. She also told authorities that her husband kept telling the boy to give his life to Jesus as he was cutting his head off.

In his police interview, Hagerman told detectives he beheaded Joshua to prevent the “Antichrist” from torturing the boy.

Credit: PD Handout

A Conditional Release

In court on Monday, a judge listened to multiple mental health experts who testified that Hagerman was ready to leave Eastern State.

Prosecutors vigorously opposed his release.

“We can’t brush aside the complete, brutal, gruesome murder that took place,” Prosecutor Colin Stolle told the court. “We’re here to ensure public safety.”

In the end, Circuit Judge A. Bonwill Shockley ruled that Hagerman be released. He could leave the hospital as early as Wednesday.

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Hagerman must meet certain conditions for release. He will stay at an adult foster care facility during the week. On weekends, he can stay at his parents’ home.

He is required to take his medications. The court ordered that he meet with a case manager weekly. A psychiatrist will check on him monthly.

His family is happy about his release. “We’re just happy that it’s over with and that he’s been given a second chance,” Hagerman’s sister, Maria Teresa Lancaster, told reporters, according to the Virginia Pilot. “My brother didn’t do it out of malice. He’s mentally ill. When he’s medicated, he’s fine and stable.”

Shirley Hagerman, the boy’s mother, has moved out of the area. Authorities were not able to find her to notify her of her ex-husband’s release.

Hagerman’s attorney did not immediately return PEOPLE’s call for comment.