Woman who killed 2 in 2009 rampage granted weekly visits with father, daughter

·3 min read
Attorney Nellie King, left, is shown with her client Amy Kern for a 2016 status hearing in West Palm Beach.
Attorney Nellie King, left, is shown with her client Amy Kern for a 2016 status hearing in West Palm Beach.

Thirteen years after the voices in her head told Amy Kern to kill her father, she's fighting for the right to see him more.

Kern, who beat her grandmother to death with a tire iron and fatally shot her aunt's boyfriend in 2009, is "doing great," her legal team told circuit judge Charles Burton on Wednesday, but not everyone's convinced.

And after a tense back-and-forth between the state prosecutor and defense lawyer, Burton agreed to permit Kern, 43, weekly visits with her father and daughter.

The decision didn’t sit right with Beverly Kern, Amy's aunt, who listened from a bench in the courtroom.

She has attended almost all of her niece's hearings in the 10 years since Amy was deemed not guilty by reason of insanity for killing Beverly's mother and boyfriend — a verdict she has never agreed with.

Man arrested in Ryan Rogers homicide competent to stand trial for now, judge rules

'He took away everything': Family of 2019 West Palm triple homicide victims speak out at sentencing

In Beverly's eyes, Amy was insane and guilty, she said later. Wednesday’s ruling didn’t make sense to her, either.

“Two people are dead,” Beverly Kern said in the courthouse parking lot. “Two families are suffering. Neither feel that she should have any freedom.”

The motion to allow Kern weekly visits with her father and daughter follows numerous moves by her legal team to revise and relax the conditions of her release from mental rehabilitation facilities. Kern should continue working toward reintegrating into society, argued Kern’s attorney, Nellie King, in her latest motion to the judge.

King asked in April that Kern be allowed to move out of Passageways, the Miami treatment center where she currently lives, and into an apartment close to her father’s home. Beverly Kern said the deal fell through when members of the victims’ family contacted the apartment complex and shared details of the murders with them. The complex backed out.

"I have compassion for mentally ill people, believe me," Kern's aunt said. "But once you've murdered people, I think you need supervision the rest of your life."

Kern is poised to move out of Passageways regardless, in part because she no longer requires the level of care provided there and because it doesn't have the space to house her anymore, King said. Her attorney argued that weekly visits with her father and daughter will help to smooth the transition to New Horizons, a treatment center in Vero Beach.

“When she’s in Vero, which is an eventuality, she will be seeing him daily,” she told the judge.

Kern released from mental hospital because insurance ran out

Kern was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager. Released at 36 years old from a mental hospital in Georgia because her insurance ran out, Kern was seen banging on the door of another treatment facility in hopes of getting help. When no one answered, she drove south to kill her father.

He wasn't home when she arrived at his Port St. Lucie house, so she took his gun, fired it from her car windows and sped down Interstate 95 to Palm Beach County. She drove first to Beverly Kern's Palm Beach Gardens condo, where she shot William Chapman. She then drove to the Jupiter home of her grandmother, where she beat Donna Kern to death with a tire iron.

A court-appointed doctor who interviewed Kern and her father in 2021 advised against the pair living together, though he believed Kern isn't a danger to herself or others, according to court records.

King reassured the judge that each visit will be supervised by an employee at Passageways, and that Kern will not be allowed to spend the night. Kern, a graduate of Dwyer High School, appeared in court over Zoom and said little.

“Amy, how are you doing in there?” Burton asked after he granted the motion. “You doing all right?”

She nodded. Her aunt stood from her seat in the courtroom and left without a word.

Hannah Phillips is a journalist covering public safety and criminal justice at The Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at hphillips@pbpost.com.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Amy Kern, killer of 2, granted weekly visits with father, daughter