Defendant’s mother: ‘I tried to get my son committed’
DAVENPORT — Just two weeks before Josh Pendleton allegedly attacked and killed the Rev. Al Henderson at St. Paul Lutheran Church on Oct. 2, 2019, Pendleton’s mother tried to have him civilly committed to a psychiatric hospital.
“The last time I saw him (before the attack), he was extremely mentally ill at the time and I really seeked a lot of help,” Heidi Pendleton testified at her son’s first-degree murder trial on Friday at the Scott County Courthouse. “I kept calling the mental health center. I went to the courthouse to try to talk to a judge to get him committed back to Cherokee (Mental Health Institute) for a while.”
It was Sept. 18, 2019, on Josh Pendleton’s 36th birthday.
“He told me he was on a German submarine that infiltrated the ‘Jewish Nazis,'” Heidi Pendleton testified.
When she told him that there’s no such thing as “Jewish Nazis,” he grabbed her by the hair, spit in her face and said she was a “Jewish Nazi.”
“It’s like he wasn’t him,” she said.
“Did he truly believe his delusion?” defense attorney Michelle Wolf asked Heidi Pendleton.
“Yes,” Heidi Pendleton answered.
Josh Pendleton’s struggles with mental illness began around the time he turned 20, Heidi Pendleton said. He’d have delusions, hear voices, was detached from reality and was distracted. He was soon diagnosed with schizophrenia at the Cherokee Mental Health Institute, where he saw a counselor for mental health and for substance abuse.
He’d talk a lot about God, angels, the devil and of things that weren’t real, Heidi Pendleton said.
“But it was real to him,” she said.
Heidi Pendleton testified that the defendant had not been taking his medication to manage his schizophrenia when she saw him on Sept. 18, 2019. She said she was able to tell when her son would stop taking his medication — which was court-ordered — because he’d have abnormal eating and sleeping habits, he’d have delusions and hear voices. When he was taking his medication, Josh Pendleton was “a very nice man,” she testified.
“Very generous, nice, jolly, happy, big-hearted, good,” Heidi Pendleton said.
But that wasn’t the Josh she saw on Sept. 18, 2019.
Wolf asked Heidi Pendleton if her son would have started taking his medication again the day she had seen him, would two weeks have been enough for him to go back to “normal.”
Heidi Pendleton testified that it takes one to two months for her son to stabilize after going back on psychiatric medication.
Heidi Pendleton also testified that in the months leading up to October 2019, she had tried to get help for her son several times. She’d said she attempted to reach out to mental health providers, but they wouldn’t talk to her because of HIPAA privacy laws and because her son was an adult.
When law enforcement interviewed Heidi Pendleton after Josh Pendleton was arrested, she told him about her son’s escalating mental illness and showed them a “pile” of paperwork about his diagnosis.
On cross-examination from the prosecution, Heidi Pendleton testified about an altercation that happened between her and the defendant on Aug. 11, 2019. To try to stop her son from hurting her, Heidi Pendleton pulled a gun on him, but he wrestled it away from her and pointed it at her head saying, “Do you want to die? Do you want to die?”
Heidi Pendleton said he also took her car keys and her phone so she couldn’t call 911. She said she ran up the street to reach another phone to call for help.
When police arrived, she said she was afraid to press charges and just wanted the defendant to leave.
The defense called in more members of law enforcement to testify about previous encounters they’ve had with the defendant prior to Oct. 2, 2019.
Fort Dodge Police Officer Allie Thompson had responded to an incident on the evening of Oct. 1, 2019, involving Josh Pendleton at his friend Jared Pott’s apartment in the 1500 block of Fourth Avenue South.
Thompson testified that in the notes for the call for service record, she wrote that the defendant was having a “10-96” episode. In previous testimony from several other officers it was stated that “10-96” is a police code used for mental subjects.
“When I use that, I use it to describe someone displaying atypical behavior which can’t otherwise be described as criminal,” Thompson said.
She also testified that she did not make any arrests in that incident.
On cross-examination from First Assistant Webster County Attorney Ryan Baldridge, Thompson testified that the information received from the reporting party to dispatch was that the subject was having a mental episode, though she would later testify on redirect from the defense that she also wrote that “Josh doesn’t sound like himself, had a different voice and is most likely having some sort of ’10-96′ episode.”
Webster County Jail Administrator Shawna Dencklau, who was the assistant jail administrator when Josh Pendleton was booked on Oct. 2, 2019, testified that by that time, she had known the defendant as someone with mental health issues.
Pendleton’s trial will continue on Monday morning and is expected to be complete by the end of the week.
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