Prosecutors mistakenly release mentally unstable man with violent history from jail (2024)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF-TV) — Elbony Weatherspoon was watching the NewsChannel 5 Investigates special Revolving Door last week when she got a call that would change her life.

She expected an update from the Rutherford County District Attorney’s office on Michael Thibodeau, but what she heard left her in tears.

It was the Rutherford County Jail to say Thibodeau was an hour away from being released.

Weatherspoon was shocked.

This is the same man who spent days terrorizing people in Murfreesboro, before barricading himself in her home and threatening her with a gun.

Weatherspoon has since moved in with friends, but worries she could now stumble into Thibodeau at the gas station or grocery store.

Prosecutors had promised Weatherspoon that while doctors found Thibodeau mentally incompetent to stand trial for what happened at her home, they would find a way to ensure he serve the proper amount of jail time.

By then Thibodeau had already spent 228 days in jail, but Rutherford County District Attorney Jennings Jones says what happened next was something he’d never seen before.

“I know that the victim is not happy and I am sorry that this has taken place,” Jones said.

Jones has been out of the office with an illness, but maintains that his absence is no excuse for what happened. Listen to my conversation with him in the player above.

Thibodeau was a free man roughly one hour after he was heavily featured in the NewsChannel 5 Investigates special on suspects who’ve been released from jail for being mentally incompetent to stand trial, then re-arrested once again.

Jones says unlike most of those cases, this boiled down to a mistake in paperwork.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained records that show the court acknowledged Thibodeau had already spent the last 228 days in jail for threatening Elbony Weatherspoon last August.

Thibodeau had only been dating Weatherspoon for a few weeks before he began showing signs of mental distress.

Back in 2009, Thibodeau was found mentally incompetent to stand trial for charges out of Florida and later diagnosed as manic bipolar.

The relationship stopped when Weatherspoon gave Thibodeau an ultimatum to seek help, otherwise they couldn’t see each other.

Weatherspoon says Thibodeau left her home, setting off a chain of events where Thibodeau was confronted by police on multiple occasions.

Thibodeau returned to her home days later with the same gun she once told Murfreesboro police was missing.

She says Thibodeau used the gun to destroy her home and resist police in what became a three-hour standoff.

"I just don’t want anyone else to have to deal with it. I don’t want anyone else to have to deal with that. I felt so alone. I felt so lost,” Weatherspoon said.

Thibodeau was charged with vandalism, reckless endangerment, and aggravated domestic assault.

He was later charged with assaulting a Rutherford County corrections officer and violating an order of protection for contacting Weatherspoon.

Jones said that doctors found Thibodeau was mentally incompetent to stand trial for what happened in Weatherspoon’s home, but he was mentally competent to stand trial for what he did while in custody.

“I am dependent upon the findings of the mental health experts. I cannot explain how you might be incompetent at the home but competent at the jail,” Jones said.

Jones calls it a flaw in our criminal justice system because had Thibodeau not committed those crimes in jail, his other charges would have been dropped anyway and Thibodeau would have eventually been released.

“Jail does not bring someone from incompetency other than a continued course of medication. It is the single biggest problem that the criminal justice system has,” Jones said.

Thibodeau agreed to a plea deal to serve at least 30 percent of a four-year jail sentence, but attorneys wrote “time served” in judgment documents.

Jones said the information was misinterpreted to mean Thibodeau had already done his time, instead of applying his 228 days to what he still had to serve.

“The judgment form was drafted incorrectly and the plea that was entered was not the plea that had originally been offered to the defendant,” Jones said.

Jone says Thibodeau is now on state-supervised probation. He’s required to report to a probation officer regularly and has access to mental health counseling.

We’ve already seen what Thibodeau is capable of while not on medication and according to Jones, taking medication or counseling is not a condition of Thibodeau’s probation. This means even if he refuses treatment, he won’t be sent back to jail.

“Is this a dangerous man? Is this a guy that should be out right now?” we asked Jones.

“If he has not remained on that medication. If he is no longer competent, then it is possible that he could be dangerous,” Jones replied.

Jones says he doesn’t believe he can undo the mistake that’s already been made, but he understands why Weatherspoon and others may fear the absolute worst.

“If you had an opportunity to speak to (Weatherspoon) right now, what would you say?” we asked.

“I would tell her that I apologize, and my office apologizes for the fact that the plea did not go as we had discussed with her— and I would tell her that I am going to do everything within my power to make sure that this does not happen again,” Jones replied.

Thibodeau was told he cannot contact Weatherspoon under any circ*mstances.

Jones told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that he is speaking with legal experts to see if there’s a way to correct the issue.

If he does find a way to hold Thibodeau to the original agreement made with attorneys, then Thibodeau would have to return and serve the rest of his sentence.

If you missed our NewsChannel 5 Investigates mental health special, Revolving Door, you can watch it below.

The Revolving Door: A NewsChannel 5 Investigates special

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Prosecutors mistakenly release mentally unstable man  with violent history from jail (2024)
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