Psychiatric experts testify on competency of alleged cleaver killer

 Aita Gurung
Aita Gurung (WCAX)
Published: Dec. 13, 2019 at 4:06 AM EST
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Two psychiatric experts squared off in a Burlington courtroom Friday over whether a Burlington man charged in the 2017 murder of his wife and attempted murder of his mother-in-law is competent to stand trial.

Chittenden County States Attorney Sarah George dropped the case against Aita Gurung this spring after experts said he was insane at the time and not competent to stand trial. But that charge was refiled by the Attorney General's office at the request of the Governor.

The state had their own psychiatrist review records of Gurung and the various mental health screenings he has been through. Psychiatrist, Dr. Catherine Lewis raised issues with the methodology of the competency test Gurung participated in this past October. She has not evaluated Gurung but says his records indicate he has been cooperative with doctors, taken proper medications, understands the charges, and understands his mental health condition.

"This report, there are some internal inconsistencies within the report and there are some findings that are surprising when considered in the context of the available records," Lewis said.

Dr. Jonathan Weker, the psychatrist who conducted that evaluation of Gurung, was also in the court room during Dr. Lewis' testimony. He refuted some of her findings, saying Gurung's depression and deteriorating mental health started after he found out the charges were refiled. Dr. Weker did agree with some of the points raised by the state but cites DOC records which said suicide prevention efforts had to be taken for Gurung once he was in jail, and he was put into what they call a suicide smock immediately.

"According to that note, he exhibited signs of agitation. The note says he was anxious, unable to stay still, signs of hopelessness and made statements of nothing to live for," Weker said.

There was a total of seven hours of testimony from both sides and the judge says he needs time to process the information. Another judge found Gurung competent to stand trial when he first faced the charge last year.

A competency decision from the judge is expected in the coming weeks.