Did Oklahoma's mental health system fail a man charged in his mother's death?

Officials recently ordered a competency evaluation for Fred Hardeman, who has been in the Oklahoma County jail since June on a first-degree murder charge in the stabbing death of his mother. Hardeman was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2010.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: January 16, 2014 at 8:00 pm •  Published: January 15, 2014
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Yvonne remembers first meeting Fred.

It was about 1999, during one of the first trips to Oklahoma that Yvonne Hardeman would take with her then-boyfriend Willie Hardeman.

Fred — Willie's brother — would hug Yvonne, not out of the character for the man she described as kind, funny and pleasant.

“I felt very, very loved by him,” she said. “ ... When I would go visit, I looked forward to going to see Fred. He was a brother-in-law I really enjoyed having around.”

However, during the past two years, the couple took trips to Oklahoma, and realized that Fred was gone.

It would take a phone call in June 2013 for Yvonne to understand how gone Fred was.

During their marriage, Yvonne and Willie Hardeman took two trips from California to Oklahoma each year to stay with Willie's mother, Ocie “Jean” Hardeman.

Willie was the oldest of Jean's children, followed by Fred and then Missy.

Jean Hardeman loved the holidays. She would cook a feast of a dinner for her children and grandchildren. She most enjoyed Christmas, buying presents for her grandchildren.

During most of the trips that the couple took, they stayed with Jean. For the most part, Fred lived with Jean.

While Jean was at work, Yvonne, Willie and Fred Hardeman would go out to lunch or hang out around the house. One trip, they went horseback riding together.

Fred Hardeman had been in and out of jail and had been in prison about four times. Yvonne said she noticed a change in Fred after one of the last times he returned from prison. Even though Fred had a criminal history, Yvonne said she never expected violence from him.

And during one of the last times Yvonne would see Fred, he would tell her that he thought he had a demon inside of him.

“There's something inside of me that's controlling me,” he told them. “It's controlling my voice.”

He asked Yvonne and Willie to pray for him, and the three of them prayed together. Afterward, Fred smiled and said he felt strong.

Six months ago, she received a phone call about Fred. She still has trouble believing what she heard — that Fred allegedly had stabbed his mother.

Jean Hardeman died June 17 from “what appeared to be stab wounds,” according to court records.

Yvonne said Jean Hardeman was a beautiful woman, and she misses her. This past Thanksgiving was especially hard because it made her think back to the family dinners they used to enjoy. She's thankful for those moments.

“My heart goes out to Fred,” she said. “(His) mom isn't suffering any more, but he is. Fred has to live with this the rest of his life. The fact that he tried to seek help and he tried to do the right thing — he was failed, and it really bothers me.”

Helping Fred

While Yvonne couldn't see Fred's dark side, Jean Hardeman's close friend Kathleen Worley, of Oklahoma City, said she always worried that he would hurt his mother.

The two women had been friends for almost 20 years, and Worley and her husband had helped Jean find treatment for Fred multiple times.

Jean Hardeman's health suffered because she stressed so much about Fred's mental health and how she could help him, Worley said.

Jean always wanted to make sure Fred was safe. She had slept in her car before because she felt like it was the best way to ensure Fred had a safe place to sleep, and so did she.

Worley had told her, “If you ever feel like you're in trouble or harm's way, run. You can come here day or night. It doesn't matter. You don't have to call.”

One night after Fred Hardeman had been released from jail, Worley got a phone call from Jean.

“She called me, and she said, ‘He's on the patio ... looking in, wanting in,' and I said, ‘Don't let him in, Jean.' And she said, ‘He's starving. He's really in trouble,'”Kathleen Worley said. “I knew what she was going to do. She just could not let him be there. She brought him back in and, within a very short time, she was dead.”

‘I did a bad thing'

Missy Hardeman awoke to her phone ringing.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, medicine and fitness, among other things. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a news-editorial and broadcast production degree. Outside of work, she enjoys riding her bike, taking pictures of...
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How to help or get help

If you or someone you know suffers from a mental health disorder, you can contact the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services at (800) 522-9054. You can also contact the Oklahoma chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health at (800) 583-1264 or (405) 230-1900, or email namiok@coxinet.net.

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