(CharlotteObserver.com) - We all knew this day was coming. We knew that Michael Hayes, who shot nine people, killing four, in Forsyth County in 1988, would probably go free one day.
The reason: he was pronounced not guilty by reason of insanity. The judicial system could not send him to prison, but it could commit him to a mental institution.
Ever since then Hayes has been assigned to mental institutions where professionals could keep close watch over him. But in truth, mental health officials have found no signs of psychotic behavior in Hayes for two decades. He has held jobs, fathered two children and spent much of his time away from the campus of Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, working at a convenience store or visiting his girlfriend. Last year the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled that Hayes could be released from the hospital's supervision with appropriate conditions attached.