NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A schizophrenic has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing a New York City psychotherapist with a meat cleaver.
David Tarloff was sentenced Friday. He was convicted of first-degree murder in March in a case long confounded by questions about his mental health. This was the third time he was tried for this murder.
In a moving proceeding, Tarloff described a constant battle occurring in his head and pleaded for mercy as he was sentenced on his first-degree murder conviction, a conclusion that came after repeated mistrials and findings that Tarloff was unfit for court.
Tarloff, 47, never disputed killing psychologist Kathryn Faughey in February 2008. His defense argued he was too mentally ill to know that what he was doing was wrong.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office said Tarloff knew what he was doing in attacking Faughey after she confronted him in her Upper East Side office. Tarloff had gone there intending to rob her officemate, psychiatrist Kent Shinbach.
Tarloff hadn’t seen Shinbach as a patient in 17 years at the time of the murder.
Tarloff said his intent was to get $40,000 to free his mother from a nursing home and take her to Hawaii. Instead, he killed the first person he encountered.
He slashed Faughey 15 times with a meat cleaver, fractured her skull with a mallet and seriously wounded Shinbach when he tried to intervene.
His defense argued that the often hospitalized, frequently delusional Tarloff should not be held criminally accountable for the bloodbath. But prosecutors said despite his psychiatric condition, Tarloff – whose doctors had found him to be obsessed with religion – behaved deliberately and knew he was doing wrong.
“His illness doesn’t negate the ability to assess the morality of his actions,” Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Evan Krutoy said in a closing argument. “Convict him. Because he’s guilty.”
But defense lawyer Bryan Konoski told jurors that “David’s reality is nothing like any of you have ever experienced in your life.”
Tarloff was diagnosed with schizophrenia while in college, when he told physicians he felt like his “brain was falling apart.” Over the ensuing years, he reported seeing the “eye of God” on a kitchen floor, believing his brain was talking to him as Satan and thinking he was the Messiah, medical records show.
By early 2008, he had become panicked about how a nursing home was caring for his mother, and he was fixated on getting her out. He came up with the robbery plot targeting Shinbach.
Prosecutors noted that Tarloff bought weapons for the robbery, called ahead to find out the office’s hours and successfully avoided authorities for a few days before police identified him through fingerprints.
Insanity defenses, like Tarloff’s, are offered in less than 1 percent of felony cases nationwide, and only about 20 percent of those are successful, researchers have found.
One previous trial ended in a hung jury. Another stalled when Tarloff was found mentally unfit during jury selection.
In additional to first-degree murder, Tarloff was convicted in March of second-degree murder, assault and attempted robbery.
Some of Faughey’s six siblings attended all Tarloff’s court dates.
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