Mother of Ashley Hall attempted shooting suspect says system failed her family
Alice Boland used her parent's old checkbook to spend $320 on the pistol she's accused of using to threaten Ashley Hall officials last week, her family said Monday.
But her mother said the purchase was just the latest failure of various systems that could have prevented the incident that landed her in jail.
Dellann Boland of Lady's Island blamed her daughter's mental illness on hazing and harassment that she endured in high school and at the College of Charleston. She often was teased because of her intelligence, her mother said.
If doctors had listened to her parents' pleas for natural treatments, instead of force-feeding her medications, she might not have become so troubled, her mother said. More than a decade ago, her family unsuccessfully sued the college and various health agencies, alleging that their treatment permanently damaged her.
And Dellann Boland faulted the firearms shop for not matching the name on her daughter's driver's license with the check she presented Feb. 1. Three days later, the police said she pointed the loaded .22-caliber handgun at a school official and pulled the trigger.
The Taurus PT22 didn't go off because no ammunition was loaded into its chamber.
“Normally in any business, if a person isn't on the checking account, (that business) shouldn't accept the check,” Dellann Boland, 69, said. “If that happened, she wouldn't be in all this trouble.”
Dellann Boland and her husband, Donald, said they told authorities about her daughter's use of the unused checkbook.
But Earl Woodham, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the method of purchase would not have made the transaction illegal as it pertains to gun laws.
Attempts to contact Walterboro Gun Shop and its owner, Robert Mock, were not successful.
Alice Boland, 28, passed a background check and correctly answered that she had never been deemed “mentally deficient,” which would have prohibited her from buying the gun. She has never been convicted of a crime, though she faced a felony charge in 2005 for reportedly threatening the president.
She faces charges of attempted murder and pointing a firearm in connection with the Feb. 4 episode in downtown Charleston.
During a visit Sunday, her mother said, she told relatives that fellow jail inmates have laughed at her for not knowing how to use a gun. She had visited a gun range “a long time ago,” her mother said, but was not proficient with firearms.
“I don't think she had any idea what she was doing,” her mother said. “But she told me she'll never go near a gun again.”
Alice Boland was known in her Beaufort County community as a junior tennis champion during high school.
She got good grades and amassed 17 Advanced Placement credits. She scored 121 on an IQ test, her mother said.
But with her success came teasing, her mother added, and mental health issues.
She started seeing a doctor at Beaufort Memorial Hospital. She later was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.
“She was really treated unfairly,” her mother, a retired teacher, said Monday. “People were jealous.”
The incident that resulted in her parents' litigation in federal court came in fall 2002, as she attended the College of Charleston.
In November, her parents alleged, security officials barged into her dormitory room, handcuffed her and had her committed to a mental ward.
The school's concerns that Boland was trying to hurt herself or was abusing banned substances were false, her parents said in court filings. She had always “abhorred such behavior,” they wrote.
The college could not immediately provide a report about the incident. School spokesman Mike Robertson said Boland enrolled in summer 2002 and later left “in good standing.”
But her parents' lawsuits against the school, as well as Medical University Hospital and doctors in Charleston and Beaufort County, delved into a litany of complaints, including racketeering, civil rights violations and medical malpractice.
They alleged that school housing officials “committed acts of bigotry” against Boland because of her dark hair, thick eyebrows and pale skin.
The subsequent treatment she received at hospitals amounted to corruption, they wrote in their complaint, because the school was in collusion with doctors to make money off her hospitalization.
“This forced hospitalization is a big crime in progress,” her parents wrote in a letter to Gov. Jim Hodges. “A healthy and brilliant girl was transformed into a piece of business. ... Alice Boland is neither a danger to herself or anyone else.”
The effects that Boland suffered from anti-psychotic drugs permanently maimed and disabled her, the lawsuits stated, and deprived her of making a living. Her parents asked for $100 million in damages.
Donald and Dellann Boland requested the same amount from their daughter's doctor at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, as well as the state agencies they battled in attempting to find care for her.
The drugs that Alice Boland had been taking led to the incident at the College of Charleston, the federal court papers alleged.
In 2001, when she was 17, they said the doctor overmedicated her with Zyprexa, which is commonly used to fight schizophrenia. The drug caused her to unwittingly wander from home. She developed a ravenous appetite and gained 35 pounds.
After the college ordeal, her parents alleged that Boland's forced treatment caused her to spiral further downward.
Their daughter was isolated and “brainwashed” into thinking that she had no family to support her, they said.
Drugs plunged her into a catatonic state for six months. She couldn't feed herself.
Her parents fought for her release and alternative methods of treatment.
Their lawsuit stated that they gave her vitamins, minerals and fish oils. But they were met by resistance from doctors who said they were “delusional,” their lawsuit stated.
'Way to move on'
Her parents' lawsuits failed because of a technicality: They had not served summonses to the defendants within 120 days of filing their complaints in November 2004.
'Way to move on'
In speaking publicly, the family hoped to ward off “sensationalism” of her troubled past and advocate changes in health care for the mentally ill.
Their litigation does not properly show what the family endured in seeking care for Boland, they said. Her mother said state and federal insurance practices made the task a tall one.
“We've been having to use doctors not covered by insurance,” she said. “That's very costly.”
In her time in jail after the Ashley Hall incident, Boland has spoken with a psychiatrist, her mother said. She has expressed remorse and a desire to get help.
Dellann Boland said she supported funding increases for the S.C. Department of Mental Health, such as the $16 million boost advanced by Gov. Nikki Haley. But, she said, the money must be spent wisely.
“This is a very unfortunate situation that never should have happened,” Dellann Boland said. “But my daughter ... wants to find a way to move on with her life.”Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.