Doctor: Conn. killer had untreated mood disorder

AP News
Posted: Nov 21, 2011 5:58 PM
Doctor: Conn. killer had untreated mood disorder

A man convicted of a home invasion that killed a mother and her two daughters long suffered from a mood disorder that included profound depression, but his ultra-religious family never got him psychological treatment, a psychiatrist testified Monday.

Dr. Richard G. Dudley Jr., testifying during the sentencing phase of Joshua Komisarjevsky's trial, said the defendant's mood disorder began around age 9 or 10, and as he got older, the moods became darker and "more foreboding." During his so-called up periods, he would engage in risky and physically dangerous behavior, Dudley said.

"He never received psychological treatment at all, really," Dudley said.

He said the family was opposed to medication and believed behavioral troubles were not a psychological issue but stemmed from a lack of acceptance of God.

He said Komisarjevsky reported that his older foster brother violently sexually abused him from the ages of 4 to 6, leaving him bruised and bleeding.

"He couldn't understand why his brother would be hurting him like that," Dudley said. "It was regular and ongoing."

Komisarjevsky would later sneak out at night, take his clothes off and roll around in the woods, where he felt safer. He had no fear of the dark, Dudley said.

"It was really a retreat from everything that was going on," Dudley said. "He talked about it bringing some sense of relief."

The family's religious beliefs opposed homosexual acts, and Komisarjevsky wasn't old enough to understand what happened to him might be an exception, Dudley said.

"This would send you to hell," Dudley said. "There is no redemption."

Komisarjevsky began to blame himself for his family's frequent changes in churches and a decision to home-school him, Dudley said. The home schooling shut him off from alternative views, he said.

Komisarjevsky faces life in prison or the death penalty for the 2007 killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela. His accomplice, Steven Hayes, was sentenced last year to death after he was convicted of raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and killing the girls, who were tied to their beds and died of smoke inhalation after the house was set on fire.

In arguing for a life sentence, Komisarjevsky's defense said his family never got him proper psychological treatment.

Komisarjevky was admitted to a psychiatric hospital as a teen after he set a vacant gas station on fire, but after the hospital recommended treatment, his family sent him in 1996 to a Christian residential program known as the Fold in Vermont.

The director of the Fold, Alfred Tomasselli, testified earlier Monday that Komisarjevsky was a typically troubled teen despite claims that he heard voices, molested his sister, wore his dead dog's collar and was found with bomb-making materials.

Tomaselli said his program didn't have any licensed psychologists on staff and didn't prescribe medications, though it would dispense medications to teens already prescribed them.

Tomaselli said that Komisarjevsky was a troubled kid who "had a lot of pain" but that troubled teens often express themselves in inappropriate ways.

"I guess I don't see what I read from the record as unusual," he said.

Komisarjevsky's mother wrote a letter to the program telling them he had molested his sister.

He also wore his dog's collar. Asked if he received counseling for the dog collar, Tomaselli said the program wouldn't let him wear it.

During his two-month stay at the Fold before he was kicked out for stealing a personal watercraft, Komisarjevsky reported hearing voices telling him to kill himself and said he saw objects that he thought were related to his previous involvement in a satanic cult, something Tomaselli described as a night terror.

"Night terrors are not uncommon for us," he said. "I did not think it was very unusual."

Komisarjevsky's attorneys brought up a staff report that recommended the only solution to his night terrors was prayer and a reassurance he was loved by God and the staff. There was no indication in the records of treatment related to sexual abuse, Tomaselli said.

Komisarjevsky's 9-year-old daughter is expected to testify by videotape Wednesday. His lawyers sought the girl's testimony as they work to spare him the death penalty.