Marlboro Patient Reported Missing William Jennings Left The Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital 15 Years After Murdering His Parents.

Posted: April 18, 1995

MARLBORO — A Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital patient who murdered his parents on Easter Sunday 15 years ago remained at large last night after walking off the grounds of the hospital this past Easter weekend.

William Jennings, 39, was reported missing from the facility Saturday afternoon. State officials said Jennings apparently made his getaway sometime between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. while he was walking around the hospital grounds unattended.

"This patient has some grounds privileges and is checked every two hours," said Jacqueline Tencza, spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services. "He was checked at 1 p.m., and when they checked for him at 3 p.m. he was missing."

Tencza said it was not clear at this point whether Jennings walked off the grounds of the Monmouth County psychiatric hospital or somehow managed to get a ride.

"This investigation is still ongoing," she said.

State officials declined to speculate on whether the 15-year anniversary date may have triggered the disappearance.

It was early on Easter Sunday morning in 1980 that Jennings, who had a history of mental problems, took a high-powered hunting rifle and killed his parents, James and Lorraine Jennings, both 60, inside the first-floor bedroom of their East Orange home.

Jennings' 19-year-old sister, Margaret, who was upstairs at the time of the shootings, notified police after her brother called out to her that he had just killed their parents.

Jennings then engaged in a three-hour standoff with police officers and suffered several wounds in a barrage of gunfire. Margaret Jennings escaped

from the house uninjured by jumping out a second-story window.

Jennings stood trial and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. He was committed to the maximum-security unit at Trenton Forensic Psychiatric Hosptial, and six months later was transferred to the Marlboro facility.

Citing confidentiality regulations, state officials declined to say whether they considered Jennings to be dangerous. However, they did express concern that he had been without medication for more than 48 hours.

Jennings is described as a white male, 5-feet-8 and 175 pounds, with brown eyes and dark blond hair that he usually wears in a ponytail. He walks with a pronounced limp. He was last seen wearing a black leather jacket and blue jeans.

Pennsylvania State Police in Hop Bottom, Susquehanna County, have been given a "special alert" to be on the lookout for him.

"He has relatives in the area," said Pennsylvania State Trooper Eric Cornell. "A brother, as far as I know."

Jennings' escape comes at a time when state mental health officials are contemplating closing the Marlboro facility. Under a proposed plan, 71 of Marlboro's criminally insane and 29 developmentally disabled patients would be transferred to the minimum-security Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Winslow Township, Camden County. Ancora now houses 48 criminally insane patients at its 690-acre unfenced campus.

The proposed transfer has stirred heated debate over the past seven months among Winslow residents and government officials who vehemently oppose the move, declaring that the Ancora facility lacks adequate security.

At least 118 patients have walked off Ancora's grounds since 1990, according to Winslow Township police. The latest was March 22 when 33-year-old William Wolf, a homeless man, eluded a hospital attendant during a smoking

break and fled the hospital grounds by scaling a 12-foot chain-link fence. Wolf, who has been admitted to Ancora five times and escaped four times, was arrested Feb. 21 for setting fire to his mattress at a boarding house in Atlantic City. He was being evaluated at Ancora to see if he was competent to stand trial on the arson charges when he escaped.

Department of Human Services spokesman John McKeegan said yesterday that Wolf had not been seen since his escape.

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