A former Santa Maria teenager sent to a state hospital after killing an elderly man with a hatchet is closer to getting some of his freedom back after just five years of treatment.
Nick Bendle was 19 years old when he was arrested in the gruesome death of 69 year old Fred Houlgate in August 2009.
Houlgate was nearly de-capitated after being attacked by Bendle while taking an early morning walk at the corner of Stowell and Miller streets.
Bendle was sent to Patton State Hospital in San Bernadino, instead of state prison, because the prosecution and defense agreed he was legally insane at the time of the attack.
Now his attorney says doctors at the hospital have deemed Bendle to be fully rehabilitated and suitable for release.
Bendle is awaiting final approval to be transferred from Patton State Hospital to a locked, 24-hour transitional facility in the San Fernando Valley where is expected to remain for at least two years.