Medical experts testify on mental illness in trial of alleged cleaver killer
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The defense began presenting its case Thursday at the meat cleaver murder trial. Testimony on mental illness aimed to show Aita Gurung was insane at the time of the murder.
Gurung’s attorneys called in medical experts who saw and treated Gurung in the years prior to the 2017 murder. Two doctors testified about how Gurung would act during those appointments and the symptoms he said he had been exhibiting at the time. Both doctors work for the Community Health Center of Burlington and had Gurung as a patient before the murder in October 2017.
Dr. Adam Greenlee was Gurung’s psychiatrist from 2015 to 2016. Greenlee said during appointments, Gurung’s wife, Yogeswari Khadka, the murder victim, was often with him.
Greenlee said Gurung reported feeling anxious, not being able to sleep and feeling like there was a ghost haunting him.
“I had listed the diagnosis as major depressive disorder with psychotic features. I think it was a persistent depressed mood, a sense of suppressed energy. The psychotic features were related to the auditory hallucinations as well as the paranoia,” Greenlee said.
When it came time for cross-examination, the state focused on Gurung’s drinking habits. Doctors said in August 2016, Gurung had stopped taking his medication and was drinking upward of four beers a night.
The state attempted to link Gurung’s symptoms to alcohol withdrawal, but Greenlee did not draw that connection.
“When those symptoms persisted, I thought that there was a better explanation for those symptoms in relation to the anxiety as opposed to the alcohol consumption,” Greenlee testified.
Gurung was not seen again until September 2017, when Dr. Michelle Dorwart said Gurung told her he had stopped taking his anti-depressant medication but was self-medicating with alcohol.
“He talked about how he was drinking pretty regularly and how alcohol helped him to feel better with respect to his mood. And so he was kind of using alcohol to cope,” Dorwart said.
The defense noted that Gurung tried to get counseling but the services were not readily available.
The defense also called for a hearing regarding complications with the Nepali translators. The judge did not grant their request.
The defense will continue to put forth its case on Friday with more expert testimony expected.
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