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Wife Says Standoff Could Have Been Averted
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An Oakdale woman claims her family has been “traumatized and falsely labeled” after a hostage incident requiring a police response involving her husband last month. She believes the whole ordeal could have been prevented had hospital mental health officials handled his admissions properly on two separate occasions over a four-day period, including the day of the incident.

On July 10 Oakdale Police were called to an Old Bluff Court residence regarding Michael Starks battering his wife and leaving prior to the arrival of police. Later that afternoon, Starks returned to his home and tried to keep his wife and child in the house from leaving. His wife, Heather Townsend-Starks, was able to get a message out and police were called to the residence.

After police negotiations, Starks came outside but was still uncooperative to the officer’s orders and a Taser was deployed to safely take him into custody.

He was charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment of his wife and child, felony sections of battery upon his spouse, and making criminal threats.

Now, Townsend-Starks is alleging that the entire occurrence could have been avoided had Oak Valley Hospital staff properly treated Starks when she brought him to the hospital for care four days before the incident occurred and again at a Modesto facility on that day.

Townsend-Starks said Starks suffers from schizophrenia and began to show signs of having an attack on July 6. He was rambling, jerking about, speaking irrationally, and relocating large objects of furniture, obstructing entrances and exits to the home because he was trying to protect his family from “intruders.”

“I tried to get my husband help for his behavior a few days beforehand and the hospital nor the Oakdale Police wanted to get him help or an evaluation of any sort,” said Townsend-Starks. “At the hospital they found that he had also taken Ambien for sleep which was the possible reason for his erratic behavior on top of his schizophrenia diagnosis. I begged the hospital not to give him anything else but instead Oak Valley gave him an anxiety medication which made him act more erratic.”

Starks-Townsend said when the hospital called her to pick up her husband that evening, she refused, telling them he needed treatment. Later that night she was contacted by Oakdale Police to go to the hospital to pick him up. She again refused and her husband was released and allowed to walk home.

Oak Valley Hospital staff declined to comment about the incident citing patient confidentiality.

Starks-Townsend also discounts the “domestic violence” charges of what happened on July 10.

She stated that on that day her husband was again acting irrationally, throwing furniture and barricading himself. She said she was pushed when she tried to calm him down, which the police used as the battery charge.

Starks-Townsend checked Starks into Center for Human Services in Modesto that morning and called police to meet her to show them what he had done to the house to try to get him help. She claimed that is when they took a report for her being a victim of domestic violence and issued a temporary restraining order without addressing the irrational behavior of Starks.

“I told them where he was at when they were here,” Starks-Townsend said. “The center let him out after only a few hours and he had to walk home. When he got here is when it started all again and I called my daughter.”

Oakdale Police say when they met with Townsend-Starks she had evidence of bruising and red marks from being struck.

In California, police are required to file charges in domestic violence cases where there is evidence of battery regardless of the victim’s wishes.

Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins said the police report of the incident stated Townsend-Starks agreed to have a temporary restraining order when it was offered by the reporting officer.

In addition to the July 6 and July 10 incidents, Oakdale Police logs also show a call by Townsend-Starks regarding her husband on July 9 when she called 9-1-1 from her cell phone stating that her husband was having another psychotic episode and left the residence to go pick up her son. According to the report, when the CHP dispatcher attempted to get more information, Townsend-Starks accused the dispatcher of being rude and hung up.

Starks-Townsend provided The Leader a cell phone video of the officer’s contact with her in the early morning hours of July 7 where police contacted her to pick up her husband.

In the video a darkened figure identified himself as “Officer Rockford Anderson” and attempted to ascertain why Townsend-Starks wouldn’t pick her husband up from the hospital.

In the video, Anderson attempted to find out why she does not want to pick Starks up and all she told him is he has schizophrenia and she can’t be forced to get him.

“Is something wrong?” Anderson asked her. “I’m trying to find out why and I’m trying to help you.”

Townsend-Stark accused Anderson of “harassing” her by coming to the residence and told him to leave. She said she was going to post the video on Facebook “for all to see.”

“I know that if everything would have been taken care of by Oak Valley Hospital and the police on July 7, this would not even be a story today,” said Townsend-Starks. “Now I see how easy it is to go from being an outstanding hardworking citizen, living a good life, to completely being traumatized for life with a record and a label by the media.”