LIMA — Brian Matheny first started hearing voices in 1996. By the early 2000s the voices would come nightly, telling him what to do and how to act.
What followed was nearly 20 years of mental health issues and brushes with the law by the Michigan native in places ranging from Colorado to Arizona to Mexico. Matheny was “in and out of psychiatric hospitals” on numerous occasions during that time, by his own admission.
But it was on Oct. 21, 2014, while leaving his home in northern Michigan en route to Mexico “because the government violated my rights” for what in his mind would be the final time, that Matheny stopped in Bluffton, Ohio, and attempted to rob a bank there. Matheny fled the bank and was promptly arrested near Findlay.
He has been held at the Northwest Ohio Psychiatric Hospital in Toledo since that time after initially being deemed incompetent to stand trial. Doctors at the Toledo facility determined last year that Matheny’s competency had been restored and he was fit to stand trial on a single first-degree felony count of aggravated robbery lodged against him.
Matheny pleaded guilty to the charge in November and appeared before Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Reed Thursday for sentencing. He was ordered to serve a prison term of seven years, with credit given for the five-plus years he has spent in the mental hospital.
Court documents show that Matheny used a Molotov cocktail to rob the Chase bank at 135 S. Main St. in Bluffton. He handed a teller a note and threatened to blow up the bank if he was not given money, although Matheny told the judge on Thursday that he had no intention of harming anyone but himself.
He left the bank and a state trooper spotted his car minutes later near Findlay. Matheny tried to light himself on fire by using the cocktail as police closed in.
Matheny’s attorney, Thomas Lucente, told the judge prior to sentencing that his client benefited greatly from his time in the Toledo mental hospital. “I believe he feels better today than he ever has in his entire life. He is optimistic about his future now that’s he’s receiving treatment and he wants to continue that treatment.
“I don’t think prison will help him or society in general,” Lucente said.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Tony Miller conceded that officials at Toledo had “expressed concerns” about the placement of Matheny in the state prison system.
But Reed said the danger to others he presented by carrying the Molotov cocktail into the bank was too serious to overlook.
“Courts are about accountability,” the judge said.