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Sex Killer, Hospitalized Nearly 30 Years, Seeks Freedom

By Toni Locy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 16, 1996; Page B03

For nearly 30 years, Lewis Ecker II has been a patient at St. Elizabeths Hospital, confined there for beating, raping and strangling a senator's young aide. During that time, he claims, he has changed. He got a girlfriend. And he got himself elected to the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission, convincing doctors and a federal judge four years ago that he should be allowed to leave the hospital for several hours each day.

Now he wants his community privileges back after losing them last year. He also wants to go into a special program, called the Green Door, which eventually could allow him to live away from St. Elizabeths.

Ecker, a diagnosed sexual sadist, was grounded when hospital officials found more than 20 sexually sadistic stories in his ANC office on the hospital grounds. He eventually admitted that he wrote the stories, casting himself as the protagonist who dominated and humiliated women. One of the female characters has the same first name as the prosecutor who is opposing Ecker's bid for more freedom.

Senior U.S. District Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr. must decide whether Ecker is dangerous -- a question that one of Ecker's doctors could not answer from the witness stand yesterday. As Robinson put it, the doctors "passed the buck" to the judge to determine whether the short stories foretell a return to violence or are simply fantasies.

Ecker, 54, a burly, potbellied man with tattoos on both forearms, was found not guilty by reason of insanity of the 1967 murder of Judith Robeson, 24, an aide to then-Sen. Frank Carlson (R-Kan.). Ecker was arrested days after the discovery of her battered body, which also had numerous bite marks on it.

The son of a prominent Washington physician, Ecker was 3 when he first was tested for mental problems. He spent his adolescence in and out of institutions and schools for the emotionally disturbed. During those years, he attacked and molested several young girls, according to court papers.

But Ecker and Harold Kaufman, a St. Elizabeths psychiatrist, say he is better. In 1992, he campaigned for and won a seat on the ANC 8A-04 in Anacostia, an area of Southeast Washington that includes St. Elizabeths. Later he was elected chairman and vice chairman of the group.

Kaufman told Robinson that he believes that Ecker's sexual sadism and antisocial tendencies are fading with age and the accompanying decrease in testosterone.

Prosecutor Colleen M. Kennedy countered by citing at least four occasions since the late 1970s when Ecker has been caught with sexually sadistic materials, ranging from the short stories to a card catalogue of women -- including his murder victim -- with sexual comments about them.

He also has been caught with hospital keys, pictures of himself dressed in a hospital guard's uniform, as well as snapshots of him and his girlfriend and some patients in sexually provocative poses. And he has disappeared at least twice, once on a hospital field trip to the zoo, and another time for several hours when he was in an apartment with his former wife.

Each time, Kennedy said, Ecker initially denied wrongdoing, then changed his story several times before finally admitting culpability -- examples of what she says is his manipulative personality.

By 1992, however, Ecker had turned into a model patient, according to staff members. When he was elected to the ANC, Robinson expanded Ecker's community privileges so he could attend meetings. Since then, he has become active in community issues, from helping recovering alcoholics like himself to fighting proposed fare increases by Metro.

Kaufman says Ecker is "the highest-functioning patient by far" at the hospital. Yet Kaufman is unwilling to say with "medical certainty" whether Ecker poses a danger. He said he cannot say he is or is not dangerous.

Ecker's attorney, Harry Fulton, will continue calling witnesses today.

Kennedy is due to present her case late next month.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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