Psychiatrist Testifies To Double-slaying Suspect's Sanity

June 26, 1991|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff writer

Although his judgment was impaired because he was under the influence of the drug PCP, Melvin McMains was thinking clearly when he told police in January that he had killed his girlfriend and her son, a forensic psychiatrist said Monday.

"His thinking was clear. He recounted things in a coherent manner," said Dr. Christine Tellefsen, testifying as an expert witness for the defense at a pretrial hearing in Howard County Circuit Court.

"His mental state was the result of PCP and not a mental disorderthat would lead to an insanity plea," said Tellefsen, acting supervisor and clinical director of Clifton T. Perkins Hospital in Jessup.

McMains, 37, is charged with the Jan. 13 slayings of his live-in girlfriend, Caria Roth, 30, and her 7-year-old son, Christopher, at their apartment in the 9100 block of Bourbon Street in Laurel.

After calling county police to the scene, McMains confessed to the killings,saying he had sinned, police said on the witness stand last week.

McMains has pleaded not guilty to both charges of first-degree murder.

Assistant public defender Anthony Lyons, representing McMains, is asking Circuit Judge Cornelius F. Sybert Jr. to bar the prosecution from using McMains' statements to police in the trial scheduled to begin Oct. 7. Sybert will rule later this week on the request.

Lyons argued that McMains was under the influence of PCP, or phencyclidine hydrochloride, at the time of his arrest and that police failed toinform him that he had a right to stop answering questions at any time.

But prosecutor Kate O'Donnell countered that McMains gave his statements voluntarily and said police did inform him of his rights. The state intends to seek the death penalty, O'Donnell said.

Tellefsen, called by police to witness their questioning of McMains, said she noticed "subtle" physical signs of drug use, such as trembling inthe defendant's voice and hands.

When she asked him why he didn'tthink he needed an attorney present during questioning, he replied, "I've been born again for the fourth time," Tellefsen testified.

McMains is being held at the Howard County Detention Center in lieu of$100,000 bond.

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