March 12, 2010

Mother describes Okie's descent into delusion


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Staff photo by Andy Molloy TRIAL BEGINS: John A. Okie, left, listens to Justice Joseph Jabar address the jury Monday at the beginning of his double murder trial at Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta. Accused of murdering an ex-girlfriend and his father in a six-day period in July 2007, Okie, 22, has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental defect or disease. He is represented by Peter DeTroy, right. The trial might last up to two weeks, the judge said.

Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Karen Okie spoke from the witness stand Tuesday about the frustration of trying to get help for her son for his mental illness.

Okie, who has not spoken publicly since discovering her husband slain on the family's kitchen floor, testified at the trial of John A. Okie, who is accused of killing his father and a former classmate in July 2007.

Karen Okie of Newcastle talked haltingly and sometimes tearfully as she described her son's younger years, when he was popular, outgoing and energetic.

Then she described watching her son go through bouts of delusional thinking beginning around February 2004.

''We knew at this point something was wrong with our son,'' Karen Okie said. ''We called psychiatrists and psychologists. No one could take him. They were all busy.''

Eventually, John A. Okie, now 22, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and defense attorney Peter DeTroy maintains that Okie was so mentally ill in July 2007 that he didn't realize it was wrong to kill two people.

Prosecutors say Okie knew what he was doing and made ''clumsy, inept'' efforts to conceal his role in the killings.

Okie is on trial in Kennebec County Superior Court on charges he killed Alexandra ''Aleigh'' Mills, 19, a former classmate, in Wayne on July 10, 2007; and his father, John S. Okie, 59, at home in Newcastle six days later.

Karen Okie said she and her husband got a call in early 2004 from the defendant, then a 17-year-old student at a boarding school in Massachusetts.

''I don't know what's wrong with me,'' she said their son told them. ''I feel confused, scared and I think I have a fever. I've been in the infirmary. I don't know what's wrong.''

The Okies drove to the school and brought their son back to Maine.

He told them several nurses had been raping him and so had several girls who came to visit him.

''On the way home, he said he thought the school was putting cocaine in the food and water to get them addicted and have power over all the students,'' Karen Okie testified.

Her son also told them he thought his troubles began when he smoked marijuana that might have been laced with something.

Okie started a weeklong drug-education class, a condition of his return to school, but the delusions got worse, his mom said. He barricaded himself in his room and called the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office.

''He told John (his father) he thought I'd been raping him and injecting heroin between his toes to try to kill him,'' she said. ''He wanted it to stop.''

Tests done at Miles Memorial Hospital found no drugs in the younger Okie's system. The parents began their search for a psychiatrist or psychologist to treat the younger Okie in Maine, but none was available, she testified.

She said her husband slept in the room with their son; she slept elsewhere in the house.

Finally, the younger Okie was admitted to Spring Harbor, a private psychiatric hospital, where he was treated. He was evaluated there by Gregory Carbone, a psychologist who testified Tuesday afternoon.

''To me, it was a classic case of paranoid schizophrenia,'' Carbone said.

He said the younger Okie was resistant to taking medication. ''The prognosis was not good,'' Carbone testified.

The parents were told their son had a delusional disorder. ''No one ever said schizophrenia to us,'' Karen Okie testified.

The younger Okie was prescribed Abilify, and he came home from Spring Harbor. His parents were told to watch him.

Karen Okie's sister, Kimberly Krueger of Yarmouth, helped watch him while his parents worked.

''He was collecting snow and boiling it in the microwave,'' Krueger testified on Tuesday. ''He said the water was tainted with cocaine.''

Instead of returning to Massachusetts, the younger Okie was enrolled in Kents Hill School, a private high school in Readfield. He commuted from the home of a family friend in Randolph, and his parents drove there each night to fix supper for him, help him with his homework and get him up in the morning for school, his mother said.

''We love our son very much and were just hoping that things would turn around and that he would get better and go on and have a normal life,'' Karen Okie said through tears. ''All along, even after the other incidents, we were hoping things would be OK, never imagining it would go this far.''

At Kents Hill, John A. Okie met Alexandra Mills. She came to his Newcastle home and traveled with his family to Vieques, Puerto Rico, in March 2005, and was the subject of one of Okie's delusions.

''He became convinced Aleigh was eight months pregnant,'' Karen Okie said. Mills and friends and family all told him he was mistaken.

''He just would not get it out of his mind,'' Karen Okie said.

She described the younger Okie's fleeing in August 2005, and learning that he'd been arrested after refusing to leave the women's restroom at a rest stop in Concord, Mass. The police there took him to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation before his parents brought him back to Maine.

Karen Okie will continue testifying today.

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