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BANGOR, Maine — A continued prescription of the anti-anxiety drug Klonopin for Perley Goodrich Jr. might have been enough to avoid the horror that struck his family.
That’s what Goodrich told numerous doctors and nurses who treated him in the days and weeks leading up to the slaying of his father and savage beating of his mother on Oct. 26, 2009. And that’s what Jeffrey Silverstein, Goodrich’s defense attorney, is building his case on.
“In 2003, Mr. Goodrich was prescribed the drug Klonopin,” Silverstein said in his opening statement Thursday as the defense’s portion of the Goodrich’s murder trial began. “For the next five years he took his medication and was able to keep things rather stable.”
Then in mid-2008, a random drug screening administered by one of Goodrich’s caregivers found marijuana in his system — a violation of a contract he signed when he first was prescribed Klonopin, a powerful drug sought by some recreational drug abusers.
“That caused me to send him a certified letter of termination,” testified Emily Cianchette, a nurse practitioner for Sebasticook Valley Hospital Family Care in Pittsfield.
For several months, doctors tried various other drugs for Goodrich’s bipolar II disorder, including Cymbalta, Nortriptylin and Seroquel. Some of those drugs produced positive results, but they didn’t last and Goodrich either persuaded doctors to change his prescriptions or stopped taking them on his own accord.
After Goodrich was arrested for his father’s killing, detectives found hundreds of Seroquel pills in his room, suggesting his mental illness had been untreated for months. By late October 2009 Goodrich was begging doctors for a Klonopin prescription.
“He was desirous of seeking the medicine that he knew worked for him,” said Silverstein.
Goodrich’s mother, Sandra Goodrich, took him to the hospital twice in the days leading up to the killing. The first time, Oct. 22, 2009, a doctor at Sebasticook Valley Hospital gave him a dose of Klonopin and a shot of a heavy tranquilizer called chlorpromazine, then sent him home.
“He told me, ‘If somebody doesn’t help me get some sleep, I’m afraid I’ll get violent,’” testified Sebasticook Valley Hospital emergency room doctor Thomas Moskalewicz.
Two days later, Goodrich was again brought to the emergency room by his mother, who then made a frantic call to a nurse. Christin Rodriguez read directly from her notes of that call during Thursday’s proceedings.
“Don’t tell him I called,” read Rodriguez. “He’ll kill me. Don’t let him go. … I’m scared.”
Goodrich was kept at the hospital until Oct. 25, 2009, when he was transferred to the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor on a voluntary basis. Moskalewicz said he would have forced Goodrich to stay there through a process known as “blue papering” if he had seen Rodriguez’s notes as he was preparing information to send to Bangor with Goodrich.
“[Rodriguez’s note] would have been an an appropriate thing to include if I had been aware of it,” said Moskalewicz. “The nurse’s documentation of that call was not something I had seen at that time.”
The next day, after Goodrich realized doctors at Dorothea Dix would not give him a Klonopin prescription, according to Silverstein, he checked himself out and took a taxi home. Later that night he beat his mother and killed his father, Perley Goodrich Sr., 76, with a single gunshot to the back — facts that both the prosecution and defense agree on.
Goodrich Jr. told detectives he suffered an “anger blackout” during the incident, but Debra Baeder, a psychologist for the State Forensic Service, testified Thursday that the defendant changed his story and admitted to the crimes against him when she interviewed him months later to determine his sanity at the time of the crime. That is a crucial question in the case, which could mean the difference between a murder and manslaughter conviction and then whether Goodrich Jr. will go to prison or a mental institution.
“I am not here to suggest that you’re going to find him not guilty,” Silverstein said during his opening statement to the jury. “This occurred because his judgment was impaired. There is a material difference between murder and manslaughter and that is what you’re here to contemplate.”
Baeder, who was the prosecution’s final witness, said there was extensive evidence that Goodrich Jr. knew what he was doing on the night of Oct. 26, 2009 — and therefore should be held criminally responsible for his actions.
“He knew he pointed the gun and shot his father,” she said. “He was very grounded in reality.”
Silverstein, in questioning Baeder, focused on her statement that Goodrich Jr.’s mental illness could have affected his judgment, though Baeder emphasized that his condition did not rise to the level of insanity.
“All the evidence that was available to me was that he was able to appreciate his environment in a reality-based way,” said Baeder.
Also entered into evidence Thursday was a notebook that contained a letter written by Goodrich Jr. that was mentioned several times in the first three days of testimony.
“I don’t know why I did what I did,” he wrote, according to a reading of the letter Thursday by Maine State Police Detective Brian Strout. “I told everyone I needed my medications. I blame the medical system and my family for no support.”
Continuation of the trial was delayed until Monday because of the snowstorm expected Friday. Silverstein said he will call more medical and law enforcement personnel to testify — including experts who will rebut Baeder’s testimony — and expects to rest his case during the day Monday. If the jury finds Goodrich Jr. guilty, a second phase of the trial will begin that will explore whether he is not guilty by reason of insanity.