SANTA MARIA, Calif. - In November 2011 a tearful 22 year old Nicholas Bendle read a statement in Santa Maria Court to the wife and family of his victim, 68 year old Fred Houlgate who was attacked and killed by Bendle with a hatchet as Houlgate was taking his routine early morning walk near the corner of Stowell and Miller Streets back in August 2009.
Houlgate's nearly beheaded body was found on the sidewalk near the busy street corner.
Bendle was sent to Patton State Hospital in San Bernandino for an undetermined length of time for treatment of schizophrenia and other severe mental illness issues.
The defense was successful in convincing the judge Bendle suffered a "psychotic break" at the time of the murder and did not know what he was doing when he killed Houlgate because of a mental illness he did not know he had.
The County District Attorney's office agreed with the decision to send Bendle to Patton State Hospital noting he had no prior criminal record nor displayed any violent behavior prior to the attack.
"We've seen Ness go through all this, it was horrible for her", says Yolanda Simmons a close friend of Houlgate's widow Ness, "for the longest time she couldn't eat, sleep, was constantly in fear."
"Sometimes she has said to me its so bad for someone to think about much less for someone to do it", Simmons says about Houlgate's murder.
Bendle's public defender will return to Santa Maria Court next month as a judge considers a recommendation to move Nicholas Bendle to a more relaxed confinement facility where he would remain under supervision.
The possibility that Bendle could be moved out of the maximum security Patton State Hospital after less than five years of treatment is troubling to Houlgate's widow Ness who declined to talk about it on camera with Central Coast News.
"Her big concern right now is if he gets let out and he's out in the public, who's going to monitor him that he is in compliance with his meds", Yolanda Simmons says, "is he really, truly okay, she (Ness Houlgate) never really found out what triggered this, what made him do what he did."
Nicholas Bendle's case will return to Santa Maria Court next month for what's being called a readiness hearing.
In the meantime he remains confined at Patton State Hospital.