The defense opened its presentation on Wednesday in the trial of Cobey Wade Lakemper with testimony from a psychiatrist who said that Lakemper was suffering from mental illnesses at the time of the murder of Wendy Cartledge-Carter, and for much of his life.
Dr. Shawn Agharkar testified that he met with Lakemper for more than nine hours on four different occasions at the Newton County Detention Center since June 2010. He also examined medical, mental health and department of correction records from Lakemper's past and listened to audio of Lakemper speaking with his mother while incarcerated.
“He really didn't feel like there was much wrong with him,” Agharkar said.
According to Agharkar, medical records indicate that Lakemper had always been moody, anxious and irritable, even as a child. He reported to the doctor that he grew up in a household where his father was an abusive alcoholic who liked to break things and that Lakemper had begun drinking himself as a child and was suicidal by age 10. Lakemper had told him he had attempted suicide three or four times, including after his capture in Tennessee.
“By 14 he was a full-blown alcoholic,” he said. “He said he felt very stressed and anxious and it helped him breathe... it helped him relax and not feel so bad.”
Lakemper told the doctor that as he got older, he added cocaine and methamphetamine to the alcohol. At times he would spend $15 to $100 a day on alcohol and drugs.
“He said people didn't like him when he wasn't using because he was irritable and people would tell him he needed to drink... even sober he wasn't 'normal,'” said Agharkar.
Just prior to the alleged crime spree Lakemper had been sober for roughly a year, though he continued to struggle with irritability, depression and manic episodes. He had a stable home life with his fiancee and their young son and was trying to increase the amount of custody he had with his oldest son who lived with his ex-wife. Then one day his then-fiancee sent him a text telling him she was leaving him. When he returned home she had left and taken their son with her.
“Although he had a place to stay he wandered the street and said he felt invisible to everyone,” said Agharkar. “He broke into people's homes and took bubble baths, he relapsed on drugs and alcohol, his thoughts were racing and he wasn't sleeping. He became suicidal and decided to drive east (from Missouri to North Carolina) to say good-bye to his family before killing himself... He stole a gun and put it in his mouth several times along the way but was too chicken to kill himself.”
Agharkar has diagnosed Lakemper with bipolar II disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, drug dependency and obsessive compulsive disorder. He said that Lakemper has exhibited signs of all of these diseases but was never treated. He was once prescribed Prozac but he didn't take it and after trying to kill himself he went to a hospital over his severe depression, and although they recommended he check himself into a psychiatric hospital, he never did.
Assistant District Attorney Peter Boehm attempted to punch holes in Lakemper's claim that his ex-fiancee leaving him had sent him into a downward spiral of depression by saying that when Lakemper went home and found that she was really gone he immediately called his drug dealer.
Boehm also questioned the doctor's diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder, which Agharkar said came from childhood trauma.
“Could it also come from murdering three people?” Boehm asked.
He also touched on the phone conversations Lakemper had with his mother following his arrest.
“You heard him say to her that he had no remorse and no regrets for the people he killed,” said Boehm. “He said it was all their fault that this happened to him and that they ruined his life,” he said.
Boehm also questioned Agharkar as to why an online profile with the state would not list his specialties, which he said were adult and forensic psychiatry, and Agharkar told jurors it must have been an oversight and that he would be happy to provide proof of his credentials and that he would get it taken care of immediately. And also, how many times he had testified in a death penalty case (five or six), though more in-depth questions about specific cases were overruled by the judge out of the presence of the jury.