Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Elves Advise Murderous Child
'Craziest child' on trial in Westminster slaying
Friend's father was slain at home in Westminster
By Sue Lindsay, Rocky Mountain News
August 21, 2007
Michael Tate has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since he was 5 years old and shouldn't be convicted of murdering his friend's father because he is insane, a defense attorney told a Jefferson County jury Monday.
His psychiatrists say he is "the craziest child they have ever seen," defense attorney Margaret Baker said during opening statements at his murder trial.
Tate is accused of stabbing and bludgeoning Steven Fitzgerald, 41, to death during a burglary of the Fitzgerald family's Westminster home Nov. 8, 2004.
Tate and Fitzgerald's son, Michael, were runaways from a social services placement and had been living in vacant buildings near the Fitzgerald home. Fitzgerald was 17; Tate was 16.
Michael Fitzgerald is serving a 62-year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against Tate. Baker said Fitzgerald's version of events can't be trusted because he has a history of lying and manipulation.
But she conceded that her client "can't say what happened either. Michael Tate's memory is not accurate because he's literally out of his mind."
Tate has been hearing voices since age 6 and seeing things since age 8, Baker said. Six years ago, he began seeing Satan, demons and elves who commanded him to hurt himself or others, Baker said. He tried to commit suicide numerous times, including once when he was 12 in a psychiatric hospital, she added.
He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Placed with social services at age 3 because of abuse, Tate was moved 28 times in 13 years between foster homes, psychiatric hospitals and other institutions.
Although an expert for the defense contends Tate is insane, prosecutor Jacque Russell said a psychiatrist at the state mental hospital concluded Tate is sane.
While at the hospital for four months, Tate showed no symptoms of mental illness even though he was not on any medications, Russell said. The doctor concluded that Tate was an angry young man who flew into rages and couldn't control his temper, Russell said.
He was diagnosed as having a conduct disorder - a precursor for antisocial personality, meaning he disregards and violates the rights of others, she said.
"But that is not insanity," Russell said. "What he did was criminal, not insane."
Tate told Michael Fitzgerald that he wanted to kill Fitzgerald's family the day before the murder, when the two burglarized the home the first time, stealing computers and other electronic gear, Russell said.
After killing Steven Fitzgerald, Tate hid his bloody gloves in a vent and began eating a quart of cookie dough ice cream, Russell said. When he was arrested, he was wearing Steven Fitzgerald's ring and a rosary and a cross necklace belonging to the family.