In 2003, a beloved small-town doctor from North Carolina named Vince Gilmer unexpectedly murdered his father.
The public could not believe the news, and, during the trial, Vince alleged his brain “was not working right.” Vince also described the abuse he had endured at the hands of his father during childhood.
Nonetheless, the prosecution believed he was lying about suffering a mental illness, and Vince was eventually convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life behind bars.
It was not until a few years later, when another doctor named Benjamin Gilmer– who had no relation to Vince– took over the North Carolina practice and began to investigate Vince’s case, that the true events came to light.
Benjamin studied Vince’s files and realized that he had been suffering from undiagnosed Huntington’s disease.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Huntington’s disease is “a rare, inherited disease that causes the progressive breakdown (degeneration) of nerve cells in the brain.”
Symptoms of the disease most often appear between the age of thirty or forty and can manifest as a lack of awareness of behavior and abilities, lack of impulse control, feelings of irritability and sadness, and social withdrawal.
Benjamin believed that the diagnosis would have explained much of Vince’s behavior, and, upon conducting a genetic test at the prison, he was confirmed to have Huntington’s disease.
This launched Benjamin’s eight-year legal battle to free Vince from prison. He argued that Vince should have never been sent to jail but instead to a mental hospital.
GoFundMe; pictured above is Vince