October 2, 2013

Mental state of man in Maine hospital assault debated

At issue is whether a man was angry or paranoid during an alleged attack on a mental health worker.

By BETTY ADAMS Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Jamie Hill-Spotswood, a mental health worker, felt someone breathing down her neck as she reached for a key to unlock a door at one end of a corridor on the Lower Saco Unit at the Riverview Psychiatric Center.

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Mark Murphy

Contributed photo

She turned around and found Mark P. Murphy, a patient she had recently supervised on an outing, looking down at her.

“He said, ‘I’m sorry, Jamie,’ and began hitting me,” she testified Tuesday during Murphy’s trial on charges of assault and aggravated assault. “He grabbed me, and I crawled into the corner in a fetal position.”

Other staff members her heard yelling, “Mark, no.”

She screamed for help even as she felt the blows.

“The first one was to my head, and after that I felt another one to my head,” she testified in Kennebec County Superior Court. “I curled in a fetal position and stuck my hands on top of my head, covering my face.”

Murphy knelt on the floor, swinging his arms wide to hit her.

Then the blows lessened. “I knew other staff members were there and trying to help me.”

Finally she saw Murphy’s head hit the floor.

“At that point, I knew he was down, and it was over,” she said.

She said she felt dizzy afterward and realized her blood was dripping on the floor of the nurses’ station. During the attack, Murphy had stabbed her in the right hand with a pen.

Hill-Spotswood’s husband, a registered nurse at Riverview, brought her to MaineGeneral Medical Center’s emergency room in Augusta, where she had surgery to remove a metal pen point from her hand.

A subsequent surgery on the same hand removed a small plastic cylinder that was part of the pen.

In court on Tuesday, Hill-Spotswood, 26, held a wooden pointer in her right hand to indicate various locations on a diagram of the Lower Saco unit.

She said she was continuing with occupational therapy to increase her hand strength and that she had scars on her head and hand from Murphy’s attack on March 16.

When she began testifying, Murphy shut his eyes and looked down at his hands. His wrists were handcuffed and linked to a leather belt around his waist. His ankles were shackled as well.

Murphy is being held in the Maine State Prison in Warren, and was returned there after the one-day trial. The judge told the defense attorney and prosecutor to file closing arguments by Oct. 18.

Witnesses testified that the day before the attack, Murphy was angry because the staff had canceled his Saturday visit to his parents’ home in Kittery. The state maintains that anger – not mental illness – drove Murphy to attack Hill-Spotswood.

Murphy, 47, made a rude gesture at the treatment team meeting on March 15 toward Robert Lamoreau, a Riverview worker who gave him the news that the visit was postponed for at least a week.

Lamoreau testified Tuesday, saying the treatment team had received reports of Murphy telling a kitchen worker he suspected his food was being tainted.

“This is a case about criminal responsibility,” said Murphy’s attorney, Charles T. Ferris, in his opening statement. He said Murphy is not criminally responsible for the attack because he had been growing increasingly paranoid in the weeks before the attack.

Ferris called one witness, Dr. Carlyle Voss, a forensic psychiatrist. He said Murphy had psychotic perceptions.

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

badams@centralmaine.com

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