A Perspective, from Logan Dunning’s mother

Valley Forum


(Editor’s note: Last September, Sonoma Valley resident Logan Dunning pleaded “no contest” to a charge of attempted murder in the brutal beating of Austin Ridge. In a separate case, he pleaded “no contest” to six counts of arson in connection with a string of car fires in Santa Rosa. In November, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for all counts. Until now, there has been no public explanation for Dunning’s violent behavior. This is his mother’s story.)

By Megan Gordon

Two years ago this month, my son Logan was in a treatment facility, three months into a six-month, court-ordered program. He was 21 years old. He was participating and tested frequently.

One night, I got a call from his social worker telling me that Logan was being admitted to the Kaiser emergency room. I met him there and we stayed with Logan, who was having his first bipolar episode, and hadn’t slept in three nights. It was very sad and scary for me, but I also felt relief; here was something we could diagnose. I was grateful it had happened while he was in the program so it would be clear this was not related to alcohol, but was clearly an illness.

Logan was taken to a locked psych ward in San Jose. He was on so many drugs he was a zombie. I still have them so I can remember how many there were. He was very sick.

After a month, he went to Casa Vallejo for two weeks of after-care. It was obvious he needed a period of stabilization. His sister works with corporations and insurance companies, and she persuaded Turning Point, a Santa Rosa residential treatment center, to hold his bed available. He had to agree to continue to participate in the program, which he did.

That conversation took place while he was still so sick and drugged he wasn’t combing his hair. I was hopeful he would have someone to help him continue on his meds, and monitor him medically.

But no. After a week, Turning Point had a judge release him. I could only watch. The judge said, “Go to Kaiser outpatient program and take your meds, or you’re coming back to jail.” Turning Point gave him 50 cents to call someone.

The law doesn’t recognize anything except complete insanity. Logan was not choosing all these events. There was nowhere for him to get the help that he needed before drinking and hurting Austin Ridge.

We are all so very sorry that happened. I contributed to Austin’s fund and watched him ride in the Fourth of July parade. I wish many blessings for him and his family.

Logan, meanwhile, joins the thousands who are ill and in prison. I work as a psych tech at Sonoma Developmental Center, and I know about psychiatric illnesses, health care, addiction and the value of positive programs. It is my deepest wish and belief that we will make progress in identifying and treating mentally ill people, preventing violent behavior and imprisonment.

Megan Gordon is Logan Dunning’s mother and now lives in Santa Rosa.


  • Dee Test

    I commend Megan Gordon for writing this painful story. The public was informed about the horrendous and inexplicable beating of Austin Ridge, but we were never really informed about the perpetrator or the possible motive for such a heinous crime. It all makes much more “sense” now. We are all responsible for the terrible physical attack on Austin Ridge. We have allowed the needs of the mentally ill to take a backseat to virtually every other social cause and every other group requiring our attention and efforts and resources. “The chickens are coming home to roost”. We will continue to be effected – in very negative ways – by the suffering of the mentally ill. We may prefer to ignore those with severe mental illness, and refrain from extending the compassion they deserve. Ultimately it is not just a matter of conscience, but a matter of pragmatic realism. If we want to live in a civilized society we can not revert to the “snake-pits” of the Middle Ages, or trade them for the prisons of today. We must insist upon a real mental health system that actually is compelled to provide care for the mentally ill.

  • The Village Idiot

    A courageous letter, Megan Gordon. Logan and Austin are both victims of a callous indifference to the mentally ill. It should be a national outrage that billions are spent on the world’s largest military to kill and maim 10’s of thousands around the world in questionable defense of vague “national interests,” yet there is no money to help your son and millions like him here at home. Apparently, neither he nor Austin were a national interest. It is also puzzling why your son did not have an insanity defense or why, after pleading no contest, he was not committed to a mental hospital where he would be treated, instead of a prison, where he will be tormented. It seems Justice was not only Blind, but severely mentally ill.

  • Phineas Worthington

    I agree that this is a very brave and heartfelt letter. It is an incredible tragedy to watch a loved one struggle and decline or ride the roller coaster of bipolar disorder and be helpless in watching as a loved one.

    However, I too am closely related to people that have serious mental illness, some violent, some not. And I personally know that mentally ill people often learn to use their illness as an excuse for bad behavior. It is not. We are all accountable and it is especially important to make this clear to those who are mentally ill. The psychiatric field for too long has led many to believe that one is not responsible for their behavior when they are mentally ill and I whole heartedly disagree.