Suspect is again called insane

Second expert says Andrew Downs did not know right from wrong when he shot two sisters in North County

nwilson@thetribunenews.comFebruary 3, 2012 

A second doctor who examined double-homicide suspect Andrew Downs testified in a court hearing Friday that the defendant was criminally insane at the time of the crime.

Dr. Kris Mohandie, a forensic psychologist, took the stand to testify about his examinations of Downs, a 21-year-old Atascadero resident who has admitted to killing sisters Kathy Yeager and Beverly Reilly on Christmas Day in 2010 in Santa Margarita.

The trial in San Luis Obispo Superior Court will determine whether Downs is sentenced to prison or committed to a mental health facility.

“My professional opinion is that Andrew Downs is not guilty by reason of insanity,” Mohandie said. “He couldn’t recognize that he was wrong legally or morally.”

Earlier this week, forensic psychiatrist Charles Scott testified that he also thought Downs was unaware of the nature of his actions when he shot and killed the sisters and attempted to beat to death family friend Glen Johnson.

Mohandie, who interviewed Downs twice, testified that the defendant’s train of thought often became “derailed.” Downs would stare off and easily be distracted, the psychologist said.

Mohandie, who was asked by the prosecution to examine Downs, testified that Downs seemed to be convinced of a military conspiracy throughout the time he shot the sisters, who were strangers, and drove off in a stolen truck.

Downs told Mohandie he used “stealth” actions to obtain the keys to his parents’ vehicle and a gun he took from them as well — concealing his actual plans from his family.

Downs drove at speeds of up to 80 mph, crashing around a turn and rolling over several times in Santa Margarita before the shootings, Mohandie said.

Downs walked away from the wreck without serious injury.

The suspect didn’t appear to be able to separate reality from fantasy as he waged his war against a military conspiracy until he reached Johnson’s home in Atascadero hours after the shooting and was eventually arrested, Mohandie said.

Mohandie said that Downs’ comments regarding his medication and going to the hospital after police detained him indicated he may have realized that he might be misperceiving reality.

The psychologist said that he believed Downs’ use of marijuana might have increased his anxiety, rather than relaxed him. But marijuana use wasn’t the exclusive reason for his psychosis, the psychologist testified.

The trial resumes Monday before Judge John Trice, starting at 8:30 a.m. Closing arguments are expected to take place at some point during the day.

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