Prosecutors won't challenge Tarloff ruling

February 4, 2009 6:12:37 PM PST
The criminal case of a former mental patient who hacked a Manhattan therapist to death with a meat cleaver came to a quiet end Tuesday when prosecutors said they will accept a finding by a psychiatrist that the killer is not mentally fit to stand trial. Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Charles Solomon said prosecutors' decision to leave the finding unchallenged means David Tarloff will be turned over to the state and sent to a mental institution, where he will be held indefinitely. He had faced the prospect of life in a maximum-security prison.

Tarloff, 40, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of psychotherapist Kathryn Faughey who was killed in her Manhattan office on Feb. 12. Police said the defendant hacked the 56-year-old Faughey at least 15 times with a cleaver.

He also wounded and robbed a second therapist, who had Tarloff institutionalized in 1991. Police said he wanted money so he could leave the country with his mother, then in a nursing home.

The gruesome nature of the murder and the four-day manhunt for the killer unnerved New Yorkers, who feared a violent slasher was in their midst.

Tarloff was arrested after investigators matched his palm prints with those at the mental health professionals' blood-smeared office. Police said they also matched his prints with three found on a suitcase - filled with adult diapers and women's clothing - left near the basement door through which the killer escaped.

As the criminal case proceeded, it became clear that Tarloff had deep mental problems. He suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and depression and believed he was the Messiah. Lawyers said he would see images of God and Jesus on jailhouse walls, and witness visions of the "eye of God" on the kitchen floor. At some point, he quit talking to his lawyers or anyone else, and grew increasingly despondent after his mother died this summer.

Tarloff's attorney, Bryan Konoski, does not deny that Tarloff killed Faughey or critically injured the other therapist but he said his client lacked criminal responsibility for the attacks because he is psychotic. He noted that four court-appointed psychiatrists - two in Queens and two in Manhattan - have found Tarloff unfit for trial.

Konoski said he did not believe Tarloff had been taking the psychoactive medicine that stabilizes him mentally. The lawyer said he believes that officials at the state facility will be able to obtain a "force order" which will allow them to force feed Tarloff his medication.

Assistant District Attorney Evan Krutoy did not comment as he left court.

Konoski says that he believes the state will keep Tarloff for at least six to 12 months of treatment at a mental hospital before authorities try again to determine whether he is fit for trial. But Konoski also said Tarloff possibly may never be found fit for trial.

Tarloff was also charged with attempted murder in the slashing of Dr. Kent Shinbach, who came to Faughey's aid and was badly injured. It was Shinbach who had sent Tarloff away to an institution and who Tarloff was targeting that night. It is not known why he went after Faughey instead.


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