Murdered Los Osos mother’s unanswered plea for help

May 25, 2012

Lisa Van Heuver


Shortly before her son allegedly strangled and killed her, a Los Osos mother sent an email to San Luis Obispo County supervisors detailing  problems her son had with drug use and asking the supervisors to support Sunny Acres, Dan De Vaul’s 72-acre ranch and sober living facility.

In early 2012, Michael Van Heuver, 23, showed up at De Vaul’s ranch addicted to drugs and suffering from mental health issues, De Vaul said. Michael Van Heuver stayed for about a week before taking off for a day, returning, and leaving again.

He returned again agitated on methamphetamine, used a hose to soak a gravel road and then rolled in the mud and rocks. When approached, he became paranoid and began running around the property at times hiding, De Vaul said.

De Vaul called sheriff deputies who transported  Michael Van Heuver to county mental health where he spent less then 24 hours before being returned to Sunny Acres.

Dan De Vaul

“He needed to be living in the cottages (small garden sheds deemed uninhabitable by the county) not in a room with three or four others,” De Vaul said. “The house was to busy for his mental health needs.”

Last year, Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall ordered De Vaul to remove people he was allowing to stay in non-code compliant structures until several county health and building code violations could be corrected. De Vaul was then forced to evict 15 people from the property, many of whom began living in their cars or tents.

On February 4, Lisa Van Heuver emailed county supervisors detailing how her son had become addicted to drugs after a shop accident at Morro Bay High School in 2005. During a class, a car fell on Michael Van Heuver and crushed his back.

Michael Van Heuver

“The teacher and the district were found negligent and my son was awarded money which the lawyers, doctors, and expert witnesses took all the money,” Lisa Van Heuver wrote. “It was a very bad blow to my son and I.”

Lisa Van Heuver took her son to county mental health the next day, but again he was quickly released.

“This is a mothers plea to you, help support Sunny Acres for kids like mine,” Lisa Van Heuver wrote.

Lisa Van Heuver died on May 12 from injuries she allegedly suffered at the hands of her son during an altercation on April 27.

San Luis Obispo County does not have any in house facilities for dual diagnosed patients suffering from mental health illnesses and drug addiction. And while several facilities of this type exist in neighboring counties, the facilities often include higher costs to out of county patients pricing them out of the reach of families like the Van Heuvers.

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To MKaney one of the biggest problems in our society is that people DON’T acknowledge that their actions have consequences.

One of the “Hall-Mark.” symptoms of the major mental disorders, i.e the 5 types of schizophrenia and the many variations on Bipolar Disorder is a disruption in the very neuro-circutry that “Paperboys” is bemoaning. Of course, the mentally ill are not the only folks who have major problems with weighing alternative probable consequences to various courses of action. The part of the brain that looks like it may be a major locus for this planning, analysis type of activity (prefrontal cortex) does not even fully mature until one’s late teens and the effects of early onset types of M,I. on this area can only be speculated on.

What is known, however, are the deleterioous effects of drugs/alcohol on this area. Kids start using, or should I say abusing these substances long before our poor little late maturing prefrontal strip is out of the oven.Please remember that we as a species (Homo Sapiens) are only around 200-250,000 years young and these newer evolving cerebral structures are going up against the “Mike Tyson’ of decision making, namely EMOTIONS. Those area(s( have been with us and our older ancestors for millions of years.

Penny wise and pound foolish! So now, because there are no local facilities to take dual-diagnosed

individuals, and this guy has apparently commited a felony, he will in all probability take an NGI plea (Not Guiltyy Reason of Insanity, P.C. 1026), and I’ll get to see him in substance abuse treatment at ASH for about 200k per year..Probably for at least 10-12 years. You do the math. Wouldn’t this have been less expensive -not to mention fatal to mom-if either Sunny Acres or another facility (out of county or not) been utilized Rhetorical question of course). Considering the billions spent on the mentally ill in just this state, it is truly appaling how easy it is for them to continue slipping through the big wide cracks in what passes for an after-care system.The scenario is always the same: everybody including agencies knows the individual, 5150 and out in 72 hours, meanwhile they roam about until they run AMOK which in this over regulated society is easy to do and then the finger pointing starts. ALL OF THIS IS PREVENTABLE, Its being done in four European Countries that I know off. Calif’s lack of attempting to appky even some of the evidence-proven tecchniques is disqusting..

“lawyers, doctors, and expert witnesses took all the money”

Lucky to end up with a third of the settlement

Which will not be enough to cover the medical cost and recovery

Always the case

What an awful story , I hope the best for you and your wife .