Killers remain ‘involuntarily committed’

By Mollye Barrows

Circuit Judge J. Scott Duncan held a commitment hearing this morning regarding the status of Brandon Aydelott, 23, and Chris Lynch,40, two Santa Rosa County men who confessed to violently killing their mothers and determined they will both remain “involuntarily committed” at Florida State Hospital.

In the summer of 2016, Brandon was back at the Santa Rosa County Jail for competency hearings.

“Brandon contacted me, and I wanted to go see him,” said Hill.” My mother and pastor had helped me and my sister work on forgiveness. I was concerned for his soul is the main reason I would go. I wanted him to know, ‘I love you, your mother loved you, and God always loves you.’ That’s the way I would end every letter to him.”

At that time, Aydelott mostly wrote to his aunt about sports, what chapters he was reading in the Bible, and to thank her for sending him care packages and putting money in his commissary account for extra food.

When he and his new cellmate both started writing to her in July 2016, she was astonished to realize her nephew’s “roommate” was Chris Lynch, a then 38-year-old Pace man who had been arrested three months earlier for beating his mother to death on the porch of her home on Mother’s Day.

“Dear Aunt Pam,” Brandon wrote on a small, blue index-style card dated July 18, 2016. “Hope you’re having a good day! I sure am! Yeah, my roommate’s name is Chris if you haven’t read the other side yet. We both say gracias for the commissary.”

Lynch wrote on the back side of the card: “Aunt Pam, Unfortunately, I’m in the same situation as Brandon! I unknowingly took my mom’s life on Mother’s Day. My name is Chris Lynch, and I’m the roommate.”

Lynch went on to thank her for helping Brandon with more commissary items, like coffee, which Lynch said Brandon had been sharing with him because he was “addicted” to it. Lynch also wrote about what else he and Brandon had in common, like the fact that they had both been baseball pitchers. He even drew a picture for Hill of himself and Brandon playing baseball by a fence with himself calling to Brandon, “throw me the coffee.”

Hill immediately reached out to the State Attorney’s Office with her concerns about Lynch being incarcerated with her nephew. She was aghast the decision was ever made to put two “mommy killers” in the same cell, and she worried about the influence Lynch would have her on her then 20-year-old nephew who also appeared to be infatuated with the older, Army veteran.

“I accidentally spilt coffee on this paper when I was working out with Chris, woops!” Brandon wrote to his aunt a month later. “Another thing that happened with me and Chris is that he claimed me and I accepted to be his Godchild. I’ve definitely become more spiritual since I got locked up. That’s just one of the many spiritual things that came my way.”

For Hill, the development was just another “unbelievable” moment in a series of unbelievable events. She told Inweekly, “Brandon was always a naive boy, subject to other peoples’ suggestions, and he could be easily manipulated. It was happening before my eyes.”

She added, “When I went there, he was so depressed and dejected about his situation, then when Chris came into his life, he was giddy like a school girl. Brandon didn’t even drink coffee until Chris came in there and when he started asking for two of things, I knew that was it, and I complied so I would know what was going on until they could be moved apart and Brandon would be safe from him.”

A prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office responded to Hill’s plea and eventually managed to have Lynch and Aydelott separated. During this same period, the court found Aydelott was competent to stand trial.

hearing this morning regarding the status of Brandon Aydelott, 23, and Chris Lynch,40, two Santa Rosa County men who confessed to violently killing their mothers and determined they will both remain “involuntarily committed” at Florida State Hospital.

Both men were found not guilty by reason of insanity for the homicides and were committed to the secure mental health treatment facility in Chattahoochee run by the Department of Children of Families. Read more.

Every six months, staff at Florida State Hospital evaluates Aydelott’s and Lynch’s mental health status and makes a recommendation about their commitment to the court, the State Attorney’s Office, and the residents’ attorneys.

“Because there has been no request to release Mr. Aydelott and Mr. Lynch into the public and they continue to meet the criteria for involuntarily commitment and no one is protesting that,” explained Duncan, “they remain involuntarily committed.”

Determining their commitment status was only part of the court’s discussion on their cases. The second issue was whether or not prosecutors had grounds to protest where the men would be held on the hospital grounds. Recently, hospital staff recommended moving both Aydelott and Lynch to a lower security called Civil Transition.

“According to the law, I have jurisdiction over their cases, but I don’t have the authority to dictate to the Department of Children and Families where they place somebody,” said Duncan. “We would have the ability to hear both sides, then make a determination if the department decided they no longer needed to be involuntarily committed.”

The ruling comes as little relief to Brandon Aydelott’s aunts, Pam Hill and Patricia Hawkins, who were there for the hearing. Brandon brutally killed their sister and popular Holley-Navarre Middle School science teacher, Sharon Hill Aydelott, on Christmas Eve, 2013. He was later diagnosed with schizophrenia and found not guilty by reason of insanity in October, 2016. He has already moved through several levels of treatment at Florida State Hospital.

The Department of Children and Families also recommended moving Chris Lynch to Civil Transition. He also was remanded to Florida State Hospital in April 2018, after a judge found him not guilty of second-degree murder by reason of insanity for beating his mother, Cheryl Lynch, to death on the porch of her Pace home on Mother’s Day, 2016.

Prosecutors don’t want either man moved to the less restrictive Civil unit, but the court said the law doesn’t give them the authority to have a say where they are kept, unless DCF determines they no longer meet the criteria of involuntary commitment.

“I’ve thought about this and pondered this and the state must follow the law,” said Duncan. “I believe the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office are supposed to get copies of these assessments. However, I’m not sure that is happening. Here’s what I’m going to do, when I get them I’ll make sure we get copies out to counsel to make sure nothing gets lost in the cracks.”

Hill and Hawkins have both visited Aydelott at Florida State Hospital, and they remain concerned about the security.

“I feel helpless because we’re at the mercy of health care professionals, evaluators and general staff who I don’t even know their backgrounds, their credentials or expertise,” said Hill. “Brandon is learning their buzz words, but I don’t think he has ever really dealt with the emotional trauma of killing his own, sweet mother. It drove home to me that victim’s rights and families’ rights are not considered in the process.”

Hawkins added, “We’re here because two ladies, two mothers, were murdered, something they got lost in the paperwork. The family shouldn’t have to be the ones to tell them about it and make sure they don’t forget.”

Inweekly will have more on the hearing in its May 30 issue.