After seven months in solitary confinement and three years in a state psychiatric hospital, Andrew Maternick welcomed his return to the community at the end of April. All that stood between him and a move to a group home in Charlottesville was one final court hearing.
“I think today’s going to be a good day,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to have a second chance.”
Maternick, 28, was trying not to express his hopeful feelings too strongly. The past few years have been an exercise for him in learning to be humble and to find peace with his place in the world.
It was July 2013 when Maternick stabbed his younger brother, Kyle, in the family’s Gordonsville home. Maternick thought Kyle was an impostor wearing armor, and he was stunned when he saw blood.
Maternick had been diagnosed with a mental disorder in 2009, a few months after a car accident caused brain tissue damage. But the diagnosis wasn’t quite right, and Maternick had lived since then on the ragged edge of stability.
The one thing that seemed to keep Maternick from unraveling was his guitar, which was a constant companion through his years at Western State Hospital in Staunton. In fact, music had flowed out of Maternick almost from the moment his old life began fading away.
Ray Maternick, Andrew’s father, was on tour in Afghanistan with the Air Force in 2010 when his son began mailing tapes of himself playing and singing.
“I’m scratching my head, going, ‘Where did this stuff come from?’” Ray recalled. “I didn’t understand it, because it was good.”
Andrew had been one of the top lacrosse goaltenders in Virginia at Fairfax’s Hayfield Secondary School, Ray said, and was recruited to play on college teams. A sports injury, along with the 2009 accident, put an end to that phase of his life. In its place, Andrew began writing songs about his state of mind.
One of the first tracks he sent to Ray was “Headed to Mars,” which includes these lines:
They say I am out of my mind
I just think I’m out of place at this time
You don’t know what you have until it’s gone
Now all you have is this bloody song
Consider me gone
I’m headed to Mars
Ray and Andrew’s mother, Connie, didn’t assume Andrew was out of his mind when he was charged with assaulting a Fairfax County police officer three weeks after the car accident. He received no jail time after the charge was reduced to disorderly conduct. His parents thought it had something to do with the medication he was taking while he recovered from his injuries.
That fall, after he had enrolled as a freshman at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Andrew was found wandering outside his dormitory late at night, behaving strangely. He was sent to the emergency room at Virginia Baptist Hospital, where a doctor diagnosed him with bipolar disorder.
Over the next few years, Ray developed an appreciation for how music could be Andrew’s way of coping with his illness. In 2012, Ray produced a CD from a live performance Andrew gave at a coffee shop in Charlottesville. At that point Andrew had written more than 150 songs.
But Andrew was just beginning to face his condition. While Ray was overseas, Connie struggled to get her son to take his bipolar medication. She tried to make an appointment for Andrew to see a psychiatrist at Region Ten, the community services agency, and was told it would take six weeks.
“I said, ‘I don’t know if he can make it that long.’” Connie said. “We had moved down here, and we had trouble finding someone to work with.”
On that July night in 2013, Andrew reached a low point. He was in the basement, punching holes in the walls. Kyle came down to confront him, and that’s when Andrew grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed his brother.
When Louisa County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived, Andrew assaulted one of them, as well.
“Even the deputies, when they came that night, they said, ‘Andrew really needs the hospital, not jail,’” Ray said.