Filippi enters plea of insanity

Faces psychiatric exam in killing of 2 daughters

`Questions about mental health'

State's attorney pursuing death-penalty prosecution

Columbia

January 29, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A Columbia banker accused of strangling his two preschool-age daughters is pleading insanity in the case.

Robert Emmett Filippi, 44, filed notice this month that he is pleading not criminally responsible "by reason of insanity" in the June deaths of 4-year-old Nicole Filippi and her 2-year-old sister, Lindsey.

Filippi, who has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

Howard State's Attorney Timothy J. McCrone said yesterday that he is pursuing the death-penalty prosecution that was filed by his predecessor, Marna L. McLendon, late last year.

Filippi's lawyer, James B. Kraft, noted yesterday that state psychiatrists initially found his client incompetent to stand trial and did not find him competent for four months.

"Even after they made the finding of competency, there were still questions about his mental health," Kraft said.

"A person can be competent and still suffer from mental illness."

Kraft said that given the penalty the state is seeking and the questions about Filippi's mental health "one has to make the inquiry."

With the plea, Filippi, who initially was sent to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center but has been in the Howard County Detention Center without bond since Jan. 9, will undergo an evaluation by mental health professionals to determine his psychiatric state of mind at the time of the killings.

Within days of the filing, Howard Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney signed an order committing the banker, who has been found competent to stand trial, into the custody of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for an evaluation.

Sweeney's order asks officials to report back within 60 days.

A trial is scheduled for May 12.

Filippi was arrested within hours of investigators' discovery of the girls in an upstairs bed in the family's house in the 10800 block of Harmel Drive late June 9. A rope was around the girls' necks, and a piece of wood investigators believe was used to tighten the rope was found near their bodies, police said.

The girls were pronounced dead at Howard County General Hospital just before 1 a.m. June 10. The cause of death for both was "ligature strangulation," according to court records.

Officers at the scene found Filippi sitting at the kitchen table. He had rope marks around his neck and tiny hemorrhages on his scalp -- both signs that he attempted suicide, prosecutors said the day after the killings.

Lawyers have said that Filippi, who was in the midst of a divorce from the girls' mother, Naoko Nakajima, feared that she would take the children back to her native Japan.

Nakajima, who married Filippi in October 1996 and was separated from him in January 2002, was granted a divorce Dec. 27, according to court records.

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