Huffpost New York

David Tarloff, Man Charged In Meat-Cleaver Murder Of Kathryn Faughey, Found Fit For Trial

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NEW YORK -- A mentally ill man twice declared too sick to be tried for the meat-cleaver killing of a psychotherapist appears headed toward trial nearly five years after her death.

David Tarloff's lawyers said Wednesday they weren't challenging state doctors' June finding that their schizophrenic client's condition has improved enough for court. A judge set a Jan. 7 trial date.

Tarloff has come close to trial previously. Lawyers were choosing a jury in 2010 when his behavior derailed the proceeding.

Tarloff, 44, is charged with murdering psychologist Kathryn Faughey in February 2008 after a bizarre robbery plot went awry. He plans an insanity defense.

He spoke up repeatedly during Wednesday's brief hearing to point out his history of mental problems – including hallucinations "since I was 20 years old," he said at one point before his lawyers advised him not to continue.

Tarloff has a history of psychiatric hospitalizations and delusions, sometimes thinking that he's the Messiah and that God and the devil speak to him, his lawyer and psychiatrists have said.

Tarloff told police he was aiming to get $50,000 to whisk his mother from a nursing home to Hawaii when he set out to rob Faughey's officemate, psychiatrist Dr. Kent Shinbach. Shinback had been involved in Tarloff's first hospitalization, 17 years earlier.

Tarloff encountered Faughey first and believed she was going to kill him, he told authorities.

Faughey was slashed 15 times, and Shinbach was seriously hurt trying to help her.

Tarloff was deemed mentally incompetent for trial for about a year after his arrest. Then he was found fit, but his condition deteriorated again during jury selection in 2010. After refusing to leave a courthouse holding cell or respond to questions, and then running naked around a psychiatric ward, he was evaluated and declared unfit again.

After seeing a trial date set once again Wednesday, Faughey's brother Michael said her relatives "just want to make sure that he stays fit, that we can go to a trial and go to a completion of trial."

Being competent for trial means being able to understand court proceedings and help in one's defense. It doesn't rule out an insanity defense, which requires showing that a person was so mentally ill when committing a crime that he or she didn't know it was wrong.

If Tarloff is tried and convicted, he could face up to life in prison. If acquitted because of insanity, he could be held indefinitely in a mental institution.

"The case is not so much about whether he remains in custody – it's about where he remains in custody," said one of Tarloff's lawyers, Bryan Konoski.

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