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Posted at 11:07 AM ET, 12/01/2011

Doctor: John W. Hinckley was engaged, then called it off

John W. Hinckley Jr., the would-be assassin who nearly killed President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was engaged to be married — to a former patient at his psychiatric hospital.

Tyler G. Jones, a psychiatrist at St. Elizabeths Hospital in the District, testified in a court hearing Thursday that Hinckley proposed to a woman identified only as “CB” but then called the engagement off.

It is not clear when or how Hinckley proposed, but Jones said that the presidential assailant had given “CB” a number of rings.

Hinckley indicated to Jones that the woman did not believe they were still engaged, the doctor testified.

“He has told her that hopes to spend more time in Williamsburg and that would therefore mean that he would be spending less time with her,” said Jones. “Since that conversation, she has withdrawn the physical affection that they have shared.”

The disclosure came during the questioning of Jones, one of the hospital’s top doctors, by federal prosecutors in a court hearing that will help determine whether Hinckley can get more freedom from St. Elizabeths. He has been held there since being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting of Reagan and three other men.

Hinckley has been granted more freedom from the hospital in recent years. He has made 10-day visits unaccompanied by hospital personnel to his mother’s home in Williamsburg. The hospital is now asking U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman to expand those privileges and trips.

The hospital is also seeking permission to place Hinckley as an outpatient in Williamsburg if those expanded visits go well.

Federal prosecutors are aggressively fighting the measure. They say Hinckley is dangerous and deceptive and is not ready for such a step.

Hinckley’s lawyers and the hospital say the presidential assailant is no longer a threat to himself or others.

The revelation about Hinckley’s engagement came during the second day of hearings in the hospital’s petition before Friedman. According to prosecutors and court testimony, the woman was a former mental patient at St. Elizabeths and apparently lives in the Washington area.

Expect more testimony in coming days from doctors and therapists about Hinckley’s relationships with women: In past years, substantial testimony has concerned the mental patient’s active love life.

So much attention is devoted to the topic because Hinckley says he shot Reagan in the hopes of gaining the affections of movie actress Jodie Foster, then a freshman at Yale University.

Prosecutors have also accused Hinckley of having stalked a pharmacist at St. Elizabeths hospital in the 1990s. He most recently has been accused of looking up a photograph on the Internet of his female dentist and then “falsely” claiming she had invited him to do so.

On Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Kennedy pressed Jones, the director of psychiatry at St. Elizabeths, about Hinckley’s efforts to integrate himself into the Williamsburg community. They claim he hasn’t taken the necessary steps to prepare for full-time life there.

For example, Kennedy asked Jones why Hinckley hadn’t taken up golf or tennis lessons in the gated luxury community that his 85-year-old mother calls home. Jones said that Hinckley, an avid guitar player, didn’t like golf and arthritis has prevented him from taking up tennis.

By  |  11:07 AM ET, 12/01/2011

Categories:  Del Quentin Wilber, The District, From the Courthouse

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