Mysterious "Zimbabwean woman" in US hospital

Tucson, Arizona – A mysterious young woman claiming to be from Zimbabwe and lived in a Marana homeowner's driveway for nearly two months is under psychiatric care at a Tucson hospital.

The woman, who has identified herself as 26-year-old Matri Amma, is expected to be transferred to a mental health facility as soon as a spot opens up.

Amma, who has said she is originally from Zimbabwe, was handcuffed and taken away from Russell W. Dove’s property by Marana police on July 24, one day after an Arizona Daily Star published a story about her.

While Amma was living on his property, Dove discovered that, short of having her arrested, it was difficult to find help for Amma because she was not a danger to herself or others and did not want any help.

Dove, who said he did not call the police July 24, said four police cars, a fire engine and an ambulance showed up at his home that afternoon. Police said they were taking her to a hospital and acting on a court order.

Amma appeared at her mental health court hearing at University Physicians Hospital at Kino on Tuesday, wearing light blue pants and a navy tank top and carrying sheets of paper with her writings and artwork on them.

Dove, 75, who was subpoenaed to testify, was at UPH for the hearing. At Amma’s request, the hearing was closed to the public. Lawyers would not discuss the case.

"The best I got out of it was that for six months she’ll be at a facility," Dove said.

Title 36 of Arizona law says that if a mentally ill person is refusing treatment, someone may petition for an involuntary assessment and treatment at a psychiatric facility.

To ensure individuals’ civil rights are protected, someone like Dove, who has witnessed the mentally ill person over some time, would normally be the one to initiate it or be involved in the petition.

The law says that for people to be assessed and treated without giving permission, they must be proved to have a mental disorder and meet one of four criteria — they are a danger to themselves, a danger to others, persistently or acutely disabled or gravely disabled.

Ultimately, a judge would be the one to order an assessment and, if needed, subsequent treatment. "Disabled" may be interpreted as being mentally ill.

While she was living in Dove’s driveway, Amma appeared to be suffering from either a mental illness or the effects of a serious trauma.

"I testified that she was here on my property living out in the elements, with only a mesquite tree and a Dodge pickup truck to give her shelter. I told them that when it rained she’d go under the truck or under an awning," Dove said.

Dove said that according to testimony during the hearing, Amma had been in a mental health facility in Nevada earlier this year, and, as she’d said, she is originally from Zimbabwe.

"She was cleaned up from the last time I saw her," Dove said. "She seemed very unhappy and doesn’t want the help. She told the judge that she felt she could be living on her own."

Dove said he’s still not sure whether Amma is in the right place.

"She’s very intelligent, maybe gifted. Maybe if her talent was pointed in the right direction, she’d be OK," he said. "Part of me feels like where she’s at is the best place; other times, I don’t know. I am beginning to wonder if there are any of her relatives or loved ones out there who care about her. I just think that anyone interested would have been there." (Arizona Daily Star)