BOISE — The 76-year-old man who police and prosecutors said was randomly attacked in November in his southeast Boise front yard by a recent parolee has filed a tort claim against the state as a result of the incident.
Attorneys representing Gary Vinsonhaler filed the tort claim May 6. A tort claim is not a lawsuit, but it is a notice one party might pursue a lawsuit against a list of possible defendants, which in this case includes the Idaho Department of Correction.
Gary Vinsonhaler was raking leaves in his front yard in the 3800 block of Preamble Place the morning of Nov. 8, according to the tort claim. That’s when police and prosecutors said Ruben Diaz, 38, approached him and attacked him with a pruning saw. Diaz was arrested that day. He is charged with multiple crimes, including aggravated battery and resisting arrest. Although Diaz was initially found unfit to stand trial, a judge changed that ruling after Diaz underwent treatment at a state psychiatric hospital. Diaz is next scheduled to appear in court July 9.
At the time of the incident, the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole had just released Diaz in July 2018 after he served 10 years in prison for two stabbings. He’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had told members of the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole he sometimes forgot to take his medication. When that happened, he said, he sometimes attacked people.
After leaving prison, he lived at Hancock House, an assisted living facility in the 1300 block of Hancock Drive, about a half-mile from Vinsonhaler’s home.
One of the conditions of Diaz’s parole was that he take his medication regularly. But according to the tort claim, there was little supervision of Diaz during that time.
“Neither IDOC nor (Probation and Parole) District 4 supervised the staff and employees of Hancock House to ensure Diaz was actually taking the ordered medications,” the tort claim reads.
In addition to that, Hancock House, a non-secure facility, has a history of write-ups from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare “that included not watching residents taking their medications,” according to the tort claim.
The claim also notes in the four months Diaz lived in the home, police were called about the facility twice — once to report another resident, who was not Diaz, had knives in his room.
“A call was also placed when an unidentified resident was missing from the facility,” according to the claim. “The caller reported that the person was in an ‘altered mental state.’”
The claim asserts the Idaho Department of Correction — and specifically Probation and Parole District 4 — “failed to exercise reasonable care to supervise and monitor Ruben Diaz.”
Employees of Hancock House “failed to exercise reasonable care to supervise and monitor Ruben Daniel Diaz, a resident of their group home facility,” according to the claim.
Vinsonhaler’s injuries as a result of the attack were serious. The claim describes “hundreds of stitches, many medical procedures, physical therapy and hours of counseling” the man underwent as a result of the attack.
The claim does not demand a specific amount of money. Instead, it seeks “the maximum damages allowable under Idaho law.”
Charles Peterson, one of the attorneys representing Vinsonhaler, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. The Idaho Department of Correction does not comment on pending litigation, according to department spokesman Jeff Ray. A representative from Hancock House could not be reached.