Mental tests ordered in decapitation case

November 19, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

The man charged with decapitating a Gypsy fortune teller was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation yesterday, as newly released court documents say the suspect confessed to the crime while in the back of an ambulance.

Douglas Thomas Clark, 28, was brought into Circuit Court strapped to a wheelchair and sedated, his hands cuffed behind him, as 17 corrections officers surrounded the man described as paranoid and violent.

While in custody, Mr. Clark has been belligerent and combative, court officials say. He fought with corrections officers and yesterday was subdued forcibly and then sedated. The suspect received minor injuries in a fracas with officers on Wednesday.

During a court hearing yesterday, Dr. James Meridith, a prison psychologist, said Mr. Clark is out of touch with reality. "In my opinion, at this point, he does not understand the nature of the charge against him."

Then, Judge Mabel H. Hubbard ordered Mr. Clark held without bail and sent him to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center for the criminally insane.

"It is alleged that he decapitated the victim," Judge Hubbard said. "That in itself is rather unusual and bizarre.

"He also has shown behavior that has been extremely disruptive, which gives credence to questioning his competency and responsibility," the judge added.

Mr. Clark is charged in the slaying of Deborah Stevens, 62, known as "Sister Myra," the matriarch of a powerful Gypsy family active in Baltimore since the early 1900s.

A family member found her body Wednesday morning inside her house in the 4000 block of Pulaski Highway, where she also read palms and told fortunes. Ms. Stevens was the daughter-in-law of King Dick Stevens, a national Gypsy leader who lived in Baltimore until his death in 1959.

Mr. Clark was arrested about two hours after the body was found when he apparently tried to commit suicide by throwing himself under a moving Amtrak train. Police said he was injured when he twice jumped in front of an Amtrak police car that was chasing him.

"While being transported for injuries incurred, the defendant states to medic, police and hospital personnel that he had cut a woman's head off, a 'Sister Myra,'" according to court papers filed yesterday.

Mr. Clark was a frequent customer of the dead woman and had visited Mrs. Stevens two hours before her death. The reason for the suspect's interest in the occult could not be determined, but his sister, Cynthia, said that two months ago, her brother "mentioned that he did think a hex was put on him."

Police said yesterday they still do not know of a motive.

"He's the only one who knows why he did it," said Col. Ronald L. Daniel, chief of the Criminal Investigation Bureau. "The motive is something that will have to be determined at his trial. Obviously, if he did this, there is something wrong with him."

The colonel also said detectives have not recovered a weapon, though officers were searching for it yesterday near Washington and East Biddle streets, where the incident with Amtrak occurred.

Court documents say that the head, which was found about 10 feet from the body, had been cut off "with some unknown bladed object" and apparently tossed across the room.

A police spokesman said on Thursday that in addition to Mr. Clark's confession, investigators had recovered a "tremendous amount of physical evidence" from the crime scene and from the suspect. Court records indicated that Mr. Clark's clothing was covered with blood.

Little is known about the suspect. At yesterday's bail hearing, Judge Hubbard struggled to glean some personal information, but no one present knew anything about his family life or even had information about the crime.

Dr. Meridith said he had been unable to communicate with Mr. Clark during a session on Thursday. He said the man's responses were "sporadic at best. Sometimes he would be able to respond, other times he would not."

Mr. Clark did not acknowledge several questions posed by the judge, but Dr. Meredith said he had been sedated at 10:30 a.m. and was still under the influence of drugs.

Cynthia Clark called The Sun yesterday, saying her family wanted to apologize to the Stevenses.

"We would like to give our condolences to the family," she said. "We are very sorry. But we are still concerned about our family member . . . we don't know why it happened."

Ms. Clark said her brother did not live at her East Lombard Street rowhouse, as police said, and that he is the father of two children, a 4-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son.

Preston Pairo Jr., a lawyer for the Stevens family and the Gypsy clan, said he would pass along Ms. Clark's statement. "On behalf of the family, I thank them for their concern."

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