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January 27, 2014

Slain Conn. woman sought psychiatric care for son

DEEP RIVER, Conn. (AP) — Margaret Rohner worried about her troubled adult son not taking his psychiatric medications and told a friend he needed to be hospitalized. But she was eager to see him over Christmas and, despite earlier reservations, agreed to let him come to her home to open presents and spend the night.

The day after Christmas, the 45-year-old Rohner was viciously attacked with a fireplace poker and knife, her eviscerated body left in the living room of her Deep River home. Her 23-year-old son, Robert O. Rankin, was charged with murder.

It was a tragic end for a woman who had spent years trying to find appropriate care for her son, known as Bobby. Friends say she shepherded him through numerous hospitalizations, changing medications and doctors, and various treatment programs for his mental illness, seemingly to no avail. All the while, friends said Rohner, a recent breast cancer survivor, would bear the brunt of Bobby's angry rants, holding out hope that her only child's condition would improve.

"He was in and out of that system for four years, and all we ended up with was a disaster, a tragedy," Robert Rankin Jr., Rohner's former husband and Bobby's father, said in an interview with The Associated Press. Rankin said his son has been diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia.

The case highlights many of the issues state policymakers have been wrestling with in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who killed his mother before gunning down 20 first-graders and six educators on Dec. 14, 2012. One task force is compiling recommendations for legislators to consider regarding mental health services for patients ages 16 to 25. State Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, who has pushed for improved mental health services for children, said one challenge for young people with psychiatric problems is that once they become adults, treatment is generally voluntary and "medication compliance does become a problem."

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