MANKATO — A mentally ill and dangerous man who escaped from the Minnesota Security Hospital in May had escaped once before in 2008, according to a criminal complaint filed in Nicollet County District Court.
William Daniel Pfeffer Jr., 26, is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for a felony charge of escape from confinement in mental health facility. He was arrested in a wooded area at Seven Mile Creek County Park on May 9, a day after he was reported missing from the security hospital.
Officials there called St. Peter Police at about 2 p.m. May 8 to report Pfeffer had left the grounds. He was wearing an ankle bracelet that triggered an alarm when he left and his last known location at that time was in a wooded area south of the hospital.
Police were also told Pfeffer considered himself a survivalist and had escaped from the facility once before in 2008, the complaint said. He was eventually found in Alabama after that escape.
Dozens of law enforcement officers spent hours searching after the May escape — using squad cars, a helicopter and search dogs — before Pfeffer was spotted the next morning by a turkey hunter who called 911.
The complaint doesn’t contain any additional information about the 2008 escape and there is no public court record saying why Pfeffer was at the security hospital then.
Pfeffer might have been sent to the facility while he was serving time in prison. He had threatened his ex-wife in Martin County with a loaded shotgun in 2006 and, after failing to comply with probation, was sentenced to prison in March 2008.
Shortly after being released in June 2009, Pfeffer returned to his parents house in Blue Earth County. He refused to go into the house when he was found in the backyard and spent the night sleeping in a shed. The next morning he told his father he was receiving secret coded messages from the military and had a hit list of people he planned to kill.
Later that day, while visiting another relative, law enforcement officers were called because he had punched a man there. The victim, who had broken bones in his face, told police he didn’t do anything to provoke the attack. An assault charge was filed, but it was dismissed when Pfeffer was committed by a Blue Earth County judge. The judge ruled he was mentally ill and dangerous after reviewing recommendations from psychologists.
Public records from Pfeffer’s commitment case make reference to an incident in 2008 where Pfeffer had a psychotic incident. The incident was around the time he was transferred from one prison to another. The documents don’t say if the incident resulted in Pfeffer being sent to the security hospital in St. Peter.
The same day Pfeffer left the security hospital, which is on the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center campus, 48-year-old Burton James Ewing Jr. was arrested for allegedly stabbing his mother multiple times. Ewing had left the treatment center with a day pass and was also at Seven Mile Creek County Park when he was arrested.
Witnesses there called police, who were already in the area searching for Pfeffer, reporting they were watching a man stab a woman in a car. Investigators with the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Department and the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center said they found no evidence the two incidents were related.