Was Barry Loukaitis driven to kill his teacher and classmates by an uncontrollable psychotic rage? One defense expert doesn’t think so.
Testifying Wednesday, Spokane psychologist Mark Mays said the boy suffered from depression - and probably wasn’t out of touch with reality - during the Feb. 2 rampage at Frontier Junior High School in Moses Lake.
Mays’ testimony contradicts conclusions reached by Julia Moore, a Federal Way, Wash., psychiatrist who also testified for the defense.
Moore said Loukaitis, 15, has a bipolar personality disorder, marked by depression, unrelenting anger and dramatic mood swings.
The experts, however, agree Loukaitis wouldn’t have shot up his 5th-period algebra class had he not become seriously mentally ill. They say the boy can be rehabilitated in the state juvenile justice system, and isn’t likely to become violent if properly medicated and monitored.
Grant County prosecutors attacked both psychological theories Wednesday, suggesting for the first time that Loukaitis might be faking symptoms.
Police believe the teenager pretended to be depressed when visited by Moore and other mental health examiners in the county juvenile jail, according to Prosecutor John Knodell.
Loukaitis, an honor student with above-average intelligence, requested and received information on bi-polar disorders after his arrest, Knodell said.
Detention center employees told police Loukaitis has been a good student while in custody and gets along well with other youths.
One of them was playing cards with Loukaitis when the defendant told him he entered the classroom that afternoon intending to gun down Manuel Vela, 15, for calling him names, and teacher Leona Caires for disciplining him. The killing of classmate Arnold Fritz was an “accident,” Loukaitis said, according to police.
“If that’s true,” Knodell told Moore during cross-examination, “Barry Loukaitis has not been very honest with you.”
Testimony in the hearing to determine whether Loukaitis should be tried as a juvenile or an adult continues this morning with the boy’s mother resuming on the witness stand.
JoAnn Loukaitis answered preliminary questions late Wednesday.
Loukaitis is charged with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault for wounding a third student.
Knodell wants Loukaitis, who has confessed to the killings, to spend the rest of his life in prison without possibility of parole.
Defense attorney Guillermo Romero wants the boy to be treated in juvenile institutions and released when he turns 21.
While Moore and Mays reached different diagnoses, Romero is presenting both in hopes of convincing Superior Court Judge Michael Cooper that Loukaitis didn’t “willfully ” commit the killings - a key factor under state law in deciding how a juvenile should be punished.
Romero also hopes to show that Loukaitis is amenable to treatment. The rampage occurred a few weeks before Loukaitis’ 15th birthday. Had he been 15 at the time of his arrest, he would have automatically been tried as an adult.
On Wednesday, Knodell devoted hours to challenging Moore, the defense’s key witness.
If the shooting occurred during a psychotic rage, why was it so methodically planned? he asked.
Why did the boy arm himself with three guns and 78 rounds of ammunition, dress himself all in black, then walk 1 miles to school that day? Why did he make a contingency plan to take a hostage? How was he able to take into account the late start of the algebra class?
Moore couldn’t answer those questions, other than to reiterate that Loukaitis had slipped into a chillingly effective robot-like state.
Knodell said Loukaitis was obsessed with killing for more than a year before he terrorized room 15, telling friends killing is “cool,” and bragging that he could get away with murder. The prosecutor also read aloud several of Loukaitis’ poems penned in August 1995. Starts one: “He kills with the cold ruthlessness of a machine.”
Moore defended her diagnosis, saying the boy’s hidden rage grew until about a week before the killings when he hatched plans to kill Vela and Caires. The fact that Loukaitis’ moods have stabilized while on lithium proves her theory that he’s bi-polar, she said. Brain scans of Loukaitis show no abnormalities, Knodell said.
Psychologist Mays said Loukaitis’ depression was caused chiefly by stress at home. His parents were splitting and JoAnn Loukaitis was dumping her troubles on her son.
A couple of weeks before the shooting, she detailed to him her plan to commit suicide, Mays said. It called for her to confront her husband and his suspected lover at gunpoint, tie them up and force them to listen to how they have hurt her. Then she intended to kill herself in front of them.
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