Mistrial Declared In Cleaver-Slay Case
A mistrial was declared Monday in the trial of a mentally ill man charged with murdering a Manhattan psychiatrist only two weeks after being released by a psychiatrist at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in 2008.
A judge called the mistrial after two doctors, who administered psychiatric exams to David Tarloff Monday morning, determined he was unfit to stand trial.
The findings brought to a halt trial proceedings that began last week. In light of the events, 13 selected jurors and dozens of other prospective jurors were dismissed from duty.
Tarloff, a longtime mental patient, was charged with the stabbing murder of Kathryn Faughey, who shared an office with a psychiatrist who had previously treated Tarloff. He also attacked the other psychiatrist, Kent Shinbach, with a meat cleaver. Tarloff admitted to the crime, saying he was carrying out God’s wishes.
Last week, Tarloff refused to eat his sandwich and milk for lunch on Friday, Tarloff’s attorney Bryan Konoski said.
After returning to jail from court Friday, he stripped naked and ran around the jail ward — another sign of his psychosis, Konoski said.
Tarloff appeared stable enough after treatment at Bellevue Hospital for the trial to proceed on October 12.
But after nearly a week of jury selection, Tarloff’s strange behavior became cause for another fitness test, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Edward McLaughlin said.
The Manhattan murder, however, may have started in Rockaway with a Rockaway doctor who declared that Tarloff, who has spent time in St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, “did not need any further psychiatric treatment,” leading to his release two weeks prior to the murder.
In fact, he was on trial this week largely because of the fingerprints taken from him after he assaulted a security guard at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, for which he was arrested, just two weeks prior to the murder.
Sources say that, when detectives from the Manhattan Homicide Squad found Dr. Faughey’s office awash in blood, they discovered two suitcases left behind by the assailant in the building’s basement.
On the extension handle of one of those suitcases, police sources say, was a palm print of Tarloff’s left hand, which matched prints taken by police in Far Rockaway after Tarloff was arrested on February 1 at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, where his mother, Beatrice, 78, was being treated.
Tarloff’s mother had resided in the nursing home, affiliated with the hospital, for the past six months, sources say.
According to sources, Tarloff tried to visit his mother at the hospital. The suitcases he left behind at the murder scene reportedly contained adult diapers and clothing for his mother, who Tarloff planned to spirit out of the hospital, perhaps to Hawaii.
Court documents supplied to The Wave by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown at the time of the assult show that Tarloff went to the third floor critical care unit at the hospital to visit his mother, who allegedly had an order of protection against him.
Because of two earlier incidents, officials say, Tarloff was restricted from seeing his mother, except under very strict rules, rules that he violated on February 1, leading to a violent confrontation with security guard Joel Leroy.
Court records say that Leroy observed Tarloff “touching [his mother] in violation of hospital regulations and pre-arranged visitation rules.”
When Leroy challenged Tarloff, the latter allegedly cursed both the guard and the nursing staff and threatened the nurses on duty.
When Leroy tried to restrain Tarloff, the guard said in his deposition, Tarloff punched him and knocked him down. The two scuffled on the floor until Leroy could restrain him, the court records say.
Leroy suffered a strained back and swelling around his head. He was treated at the hospital and released.
Sources report that Tarloff was held overnight for psychiatric evaluation, but was released the next morning because the law does not allow involuntary confinement for more than 24 hours unless a determination is made that the person is a danger to himself or others.
Published sources say that Dr. Reddy Bezwada, a psychiatrist at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, told the court, in a written evaluation, that Tarloff “did not require further psychiatric treatment,” and he was released.
Tarloff was charged with assault, harassment and disorderly conduct and was arraigned in Queens Supreme Court the following day.
Court records show that he was released on his own recognizance by Judge Barry Kron, based largely on Dr. Bezwada’s evaluation that Tarloff was not a danger to himself or to others.
Court transcripts show that Assistant District Attorney Carly Kaufman told Kron that the people were not asking for bail in the case.
Kron ordered, “The defendant is ROR [released on own recognizance] on consent. There is a problem where the defendant tried to visit his mother at the hospital and got into a hassle of some sort with the nurses. [He] felt that she wasn’t being fed or nourished and he got very … that’s not something that requires an order of protection.”
The judge also warned Tarloff, “You need to use restraint and common sense if there is some sort of problem. You never want to come back here again.”
Tarloff told the judge, “Thank you very much. God Bless you.”