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Youth Had Intent, Expert Tells Court

A psychologist testified Thursday that a College Place teenager was capable of understanding the consequences of taping plastic bags over the heads of his sister and her best friend.

Daniel Betournay, 15, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the Dec. 14 deaths of his sister, April, and her friend Beth Garbe, both 14.

He has confessed to killing the girls, but his lawyers contend he suffered from diminished mental capacity and cannot be found guilty of murder.

Steve Marquez, a clinical psychologist with the Child Study Treatment Center in Tacoma, told the Walla Walla County Superior Court jury that he couldn’t know what was going on inside Betournay’s mind at the time of the slayings.

But he believed the teenager had the capacity to understand the act and its consequences.

“In my opinion, he had the capacity for intent,” Marquez said. “Intent existed.”

Intent is the ability to reflect before committing an act and to understand the consequences, Marquez said.

His determination was based, in part, on at least 10 interviews with Betournay at the Tacoma center in March. Betournay also spent 15 days at the center in December and January for other mental evaluations.

But Marquez said he believes that Betournay displays the emergence of schizophrenia, a dysfunction of thoughts and feelings. He also diagnosed Betournay with major depressive disorder, and said he showed signs of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Earlier Thursday, another mental health professional testified that Betournay had become obsessed with a dream about killing a family member.

Todd Wagner, a mental health professional with the Walla Walla Mental Health Center, interviewed Betournay for about 1-1/2 hours the morning after the slayings.

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