A three-judge panel will decide next month whether Wilton resident Aaron Ramsey was insane when he allegedly killed his father, 73-year-old Edward Ramsey, at their Signal Hill Road residence on May 3.
During a hearing to determine if Ramsey is guilty by reason of insanity held Wednesday at state Superior Court in Stamford, psychiatrist Justin Schechter testified that the 22-year-old—who is free on bond—was having a psychotic episode when when he allegedly bludgeoned and stabbed his father to death, and was therefore "unable to understand the wrongfulness of his actions."
Schechter said he interviewed Ramsey three times for a total of five hours following the incident —twice at Bridgeport Correctional Facility, where Ramsey was initially being held, and once at the Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown, where he is currently undergoing treatment. Schechter said he also interviewed family members including Ramsey's mother and brother—who were in the courtroom on Wednesday—as part of his investigation.
Ramsey's Treatment History
Schechter said according to medical records Ramsey has a "history of psychiatric treatment" dating back to when he was 13 years old, however he added that his condition didn't "solidify" until he reached age 19. Schechter said Ramsey has been treated on more than one occasion for mood/anxiety disorders, in addition to drug and alcohol abuse, including a stay at High Watch Recovery Center in 2009 and Silver Hill in 2010.
However, Schechter said toxicology reports indicate Ramsey did not have drugs in his system at the time the incident took place. He said although Ramsey tested positive for marijuana use, results showed he had not used the drug in the 24 hours prior to the incident.
Schechter described how Ramsey suffered from "paranoid delusions"— that he believed aliens were controlling the people around him and that he was responsible for resolving "an ongoing struggle between good and evil." Ramsey believed that the people around him were "acting odd" and that there was an alien conspiracy against him, Schechter said. At times he believed that his father was an alien and was part of an alien plot to take over the world.
"He had this sense that something big was going on—that there was some sort of a scheme against him," Schechter said.
For example Ramsey believed that figures depicted in posters and signs were watching him—that he was "constantly under surveillance," Schechter said. He also believed that people were reading his thoughts.
He said Ramsey tried to hold down a restaurant job in New York City and also worked as a street musician in the subway system for a period—neither of which lasted long because his "paranoid delusions" interfered with his ability to function.
As his condition worsened, Ramsey came to distrust his own family members— including his father and brother—and at times believed that even the family pets were being controlled by aliens, Schechter said. He thought his parents were putting heroin in his food and his bathing water, in an effort to poison him, and at one point believed that they had planted drugs in his car in an effort to have him arrested.
Ramsey began to suffer physical ill effects of his condition in the days leading up to the incident, Schechter said. The night before the incident, he said, a chronically-sleep-deprived Ramsey was up all night because of his paranoia. He said a sleeping bag found on a deck at the home indicated that Ramsey might have attempted to sleep outside the night before, however, he added that Ramsey said he had no recollection of doing that.
The Night of Edward Ramsey's Death
It was in the final days leading up to the incident that Ramsey started hearing voices in his head telling him that his father was part of an alien plot to take over the world and that he had to "protect the world from evil."
Schechter said on the night of the incident Ramsey believed that his father was trying to hypnotize him with his piano playing, in an attempt to get him to commit suicide. Schechter said Ramsey tried to leave the house but for whatever reason couldn't get himself together to leave. It was then, Schechter said, that the voices told him "now is the time to take action," and he confronted his father in the piano room.
Schechter said Ramsey asked his father to leave the house, but when his father refused, Ramsey tried to deliver a "death blow" using "some type of martial arts move." When that didn't work, he picked up the piano bench and started beating his father with it, Schechter said. He also started kicking and stomping on his father, Schechter said.
After his father was on the ground, the voices in Ramsey's head then told him to "finish the job," Schechter said. He went to the kitchen to grab a knife. At first Ramsey grabbed a knife with a blunt edge, "like a butter knife," Schechter said, but after more failed attempts he went back and grabbed a larger, sharper knife, which he used to stab his father repeatedly in the chest, stomach and groin.
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Schechter said during the interviews Ramsey told him that he decided to stab his father in the groin area because he believed it would cause him to "bleed out" faster. Ramsey said the voices told him he had to be "diligent" about the killing because his father had healing powers.
Ramsey stopped the attack on his father "when the voices told him he had completed what he needed to do," Schechter said — however he later said he wasn't sure whether his father was actually dead.
Ramsey told Schechter he then ran to a neighbor's house got into their car.
"Next thing he knows, he is talking to police officers," Schechter said, adding that Ramsey was injured, covered in blood and "in an extreme state of agitation" when police and EMS personnel first arrived on scene. It was when Ramsey's mother called 911 that police on scene learned that she had just discovered her husband's body.
Schechter said Ramsey continued to "consistently" exhibit symptoms of psychosis during the ambulance ride as well as after he had arrived at Norwalk Hospital. For example he continued to believe that the hospital staff were trying to poison him by putting drugs in his water.
The Days Following
"In the days after his arrest Mr. Ramsey continued to exhibit severe psychological symptoms," Schechter said, adding that Ramsey continued to demonstrate that he didn't know he had done anything wrong.
Schechter said he administered a Global Assessment of Functioning test used to determine Ramsey’s mental stability at the time of the incident. He said on a scale of zero to 100, Ramsey scored a 10, which is a strong indication of psychosis.
Schechter said after Ramsey was moved to Bridgeport Correctional Facility and later to Whiting, he was medicated with anti-psychotic drugs including Abilify. He said as a result of his treatment so far, Ramsey now scores about 50 on the GAF test.
Schechter said after Ramsey was transferred to Bridgeport Correctional he continued to exhibit "significant psychotic symptoms." He said Ramsey injured himself when he intentionally struck his head on a sink, resulting in a serious laceration on the back of his head which require 40 sutures.
Schechter said Ramsey's delusions "lacked thematic consistency" — which, he said, is a hallmark of psychosis. In addition the way he attacked his father, although violent, was "poorly goal directed," meaning he had a difficult time figuring out how to kill him, resulting in "wounds that were bizarre in nature."
In addition to Schechter's testimony, Connecticut’s Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver provided details about his examination of Edward Ramsey's body.
Carver said he determined through his autopsy that the Edward Ramsey died from blunt traumatic injuries to the head and exsanguination (i.e. bleeding) resulting from multiple stab wounds to the chest, stomach and groin area.
The elder Ramsey sustained more than 50 stab wounds and/or cuts, Carver said, but it was the blunt trauma to the head that likely caused his death.
"From what I was able to determine, he was pretty compromised from the head trauma prior to the stabbing," Carver said, adding that Edward Ramsey had suffered "significant" damage to the right side of his head, including a "tearing away of the skin from the bone in the area of the eye socket and temple" as well as fractures of the skull.
Prosecutors "Comfortable" With Doctor's Findings
After the hearing, State's Attorney Richard Colangelo said he could have attempted to disprove parts of Schechter's testimony, but added that the prosecution was "comfortable with the doctor's findings."
Ramsey, who is being represented by Public Defender Howard Ehring, faces 25 to 60 years in Whiting or a similar treatment facility, Colangelo said.
When asked by Ehring how long it would take for Ramsey to recover, Schechter said it was almost impossible to determine, since it depends on how well Ramsey responds to treatment. Adding to the unpredictibility of his recovery, Schechter said, is the fact that Ramsey will now also have to deal with the trauma of having lost his father.
"He now has other issues that will need to be addressed over time," Schechter said.
When asked whether or not Ramsey would be a free man, should he be successfully rehabilitated after being found guilty by reason of insanity, Colangelo said "I suggest you refer to the state statutes on that one."
Judges Richard Comerford, Bruce Hudock and William Wenzel will announce their ruling on Dec. 12.
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