Engel suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, defense attorney says
Fred Engel suffered from delusions, including that he was king of the German illuminati, before trying to murder Susan Wallace and burning down her house one year ago, lawyers agreed as they opened the insanity phase of Engel’s trial this morning.
But the defense and prosecution disagreed over whether the man convicted yesterday of attempted murder and arson knew what he was doing was wrong.
Twelve jurors found Engel guilty of the crimes. Now, they are being asked to decide whether he was sane on the night of May 6, 2005.
Engel has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity, prompting the two-part trial at Nevada Superior Court in Nevada City.
During the morning session, Engel continued to sit blank-faced as the lawyers argued. Occasionally, he raised his eyebrows or talked to his lawyer. Unlike the guilt phase of the trial, no friends or family members of those involved were present.
Engel suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, according to defense attorney Stephen A. Munkelt of Nevada City.
Engel had told a psychiatrist after the crimes that he believed Wallace was his real mother and a shape-shifter, Assistant District Attorney Ron Wolfson said. Wolfson also suggested Engel had planned to kill his brother, Andrew Goodrich, whose house he visited immediately after the attack.
“He suffered from delusions,” Munkelt told jurors. “He believed he was Adam and the Antichrist.”
Engel also believed that Wallace had stolen $3 million from “his people” to buy a large cache of drugs, and she was part of a global drug war, Munkelt added.
Munkelt described Engel’s delusion of being a kind of commando in this illusory drug war, believing he had to assassinate Wallace in the same way American commandos invading Saddam Hussein’s palace would have believed it moral to assassinate the Iraqi dictator had they found him.
Engel’s delusional mental state “is a terrible and tragic experience, and because it was left untreated, it turned into a terrible and tragic thing on Nevada Street,” where Wallace lived, Munkelt said.
But Wolfson argued that he was horrified by his own plans. Engel had turned back on his lethal mission three times because he knew it was wrong, Wolfson said.
“We have a person who knew what he did and couldn’t help himself,” Wolfson said. “In spite of the fact he may have been delusional, he clearly knew what he was about to do. He understood these acts were morally and legally wrong.”
Wolfson also said Engel had smoked the potent illegal drug methamphetamine before attempting to kill Wallace.
“Most schizophrenics do not commit violence,” Wolfson said. “Methamphetamine contributes to paranoia.”
To contact staff writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4231.
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