De­fense fo­cuses on abuse and PTSD

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­tri­cia Doxsey pdoxsey@free­manon­line.com pat­ti­at­free­man on Twit­ter

A physi­cian who ex­am­ined the son of Ni­cholas Pascarella Jr. said she based her de­ter­mi­na­tion that the 4-year-old had been sex­u­ally abused solely on the boy’s dec­la­ra­tion that “Poppy did some­thing bad to me, he touched my pee-pee and my butt.”

Dr. Mon­ica Meyer, of the Ul­ster County Fam­ily and Child Ad­vo­cacy Cen­ter, tes­ti­fied Thurs­day at Pascarella’s mur­der re­trial that she ex­am­ined the child three weeks af­ter the al­leged in­ci­dent and found no signs of trauma, but she said a neg­a­tive find­ing so long af­ter such an in­ci­dent would not be un­com­mon.

Pascarella, 41, is stand­ing trial for sec­ond-de­gree mur­der for a sec­ond time for the De­cem­ber 2014 blud­geon­ing death of his fa­ther, Ni­cho-

Sr., 67. The first trial, in late March and early April, re­sulted in a hung jury.

RE­CAP: Thurs­day’s live tweets from Pascarella mur­der trial

The de­fense does not dis­pute that Pascarella killed his fa­ther but says the de­fen­dant suf­fered from post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der due to a life­time of phys­i­cal and men­tal abuse at the hands of the older man and the thought that the elder Pascarella sex­u­ally abused the 4-year-old. Pascarella suf­fered from ex­treme emo­tional dis­tur­bance that led to a “pro­found loss of self con­trol,” the de­fense con­tends.

The prose­cu­tion says the abuse never oc­curred and Pascarella Jr. is a cold and cal­cu­lat­ing mur­derer.

Un­der ques­tion­ing Thurs­day by Ul­ster County As­sis­tant Pub­lic De­fender Mar­iAnn Con­nolly, Meyer said she told the 4-yearold’s par­ents that she be­lieved the child sus­tained trauma be­cause when she at­tempted to ex­am­ine his rec­tal area, the child turned to the nurse and said, “‘She’s not go­ing to hurt me, is she?’” and then “spon­ta­neously” told the doc­tor his grand­fa­ther had touched him.

Asked un­der cross-ex­am­i­na­tion by Ul­ster County Chief As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney Michael Ka­vanagh whether the child be­came up­set when she touched his gen­i­tals, Meyer said “no.” Asked if she told the par­ents the trauma could have been from a spank­ing, Meyer also said “no.”

Pascarella went to his par­ents’ house in Marl­bor­ough some­time be­fore noon on Dec. 27, 2014, and beat his fa­ther to death with a base­ball bat he found on the prop­erty while his mother watched in hor­ror from a win­dow.

Af­ter killing his fa­ther, Pascarella drove to the Marl­bor­ough po­lice sta­tion and turned him­self in.

In the first trial, ju­rors were un­able to agree on whether the de­fen­dant was guilty of mur­der or the of less-se­ri­ous crime of man­slaugh­ter be­cause he acted out of “ex­treme emo­tional dis­tur­bance.” They de­lib­er­ated for more than four days with­out reach­ing a ver­dict and told Ul­ster County Judge Don­ald A. Wil­liams they were dead­locked. Wil­liams then de­clared a mis­trial.

Also tak­ing the stand for the de­fense Thurs­day were two psy­chi­a­trists who ex­am­ined Pascarella in the days and months af­ter he killed his fa­ther.

Dr. San­dra An­to­niak tes­ti­fied she di­ag­nosed him with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der dur­ing their first meet­ing in the Ul­ster County Jail.

She said she was so con­cerned with the de­fen­dant’s men­tal health that she saw him ev­ery two weeks, which she said is the most of­ten in­mates can be seen.

An­to­niak said Pascarella Jr. ex­hib­ited all the signs of post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, ex­cept, she said, he ex­hib­ited a type of “bravado” about his ac­tions.

Dr. Do­minic Ferro, a psy­chi­a­trist who eval­u­ated the de­fen­dant, said he, too, be­lieved that Pascarella suf­fered from PTSD as the re­sult of a life­time of phys­i­cal and men­tal abuse by his fa­ther.

Based on his in­ter­views with Pascarella and oth­ers, Ferro said, he be­lieved Pascarella “had a pro­found lack of con­trol” through­out his life and that al­though he killed his fa­ther nearly a year af­ter the al­leged abuse of the child oc­curred, Pascarella at the time acted un­der “ex­treme emo­tional dis­tur­bance.”

Ferro said that on the night be­fore he killed his fa­ther, Pascarella and his son were out when the boy spot­ted a truck like the one Pascarella Sr. drove. Ferro said that Pascarella told him the boy “freaked out” and had night­mares all night.

“So this was the frame of mind in which he planned to go and at­tack his fa­ther,” Ferro said.

Un­der cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, Ferro con­ceded that “re­cov­ered memories” of sex­ual abuse that Pascarella said he and his brother suf­fered at the hands of their fa­ther could have been imag­ined. But, he said, even if the abuse didn’t oc­cur, “he does be­lieve that it hap­pened; those memories are very real in his mind.”

Also in cross-ex­am­i­na­tion, Ka­vanagh asked whether Ferro’s opin­ion of Pascarella’s state of mind at the time of the killing would be dif­fer­ent if the facts about in­ci­dents lead­ing up to the killing as told

to him by Pascarella were not true.

Ferro said it would not, adding that rarely does he get so much in­for­ma­tion on which to base a di­ag­no­sis.

“I can say with very high de­gree of con­fi­dence that Mr. Pascarella has PTSD,” Ferro said, adding that Pascarella’s emo­tional state af­ter hear­ing of the al­leged abuse of his son made it im­pos­si­ble for him to ra­tio­nally plan out the killing of his fa­ther.

The trial is to re­sume at 10 a.m. Fri­day with re­but­tal wit­nesses called by the prose­cu­tion. They’re ex­pected to of­fer tes­ti­mony in­tended to re­but the tes­ti­mony by de­fense ex­perts.

•••

Re­lated con­tent

“Ju­rors in Pascarella re­trial hear ad­mis­sion of fa­tal beat­ing, tes­ti­mony about al­leged abuse of vic­tim’s grand­son,” Oct. 5, 2016 “Jury se­lec­tion nearly com­pleted for re­trial of Clin­ton­dale man charged with killing fa­ther,” Oct. 3, 2016 “Re­trial of ad­mit­ted killer Ni­cholas Pascarella Jr. set for Oct. 3 in Ul­ster County Court,” June 21, 2016 “MIS­TRIAL: Pascarella mur­der case ends with jury in ‘ab­so­lute dead­lock,’” April 8, 2016 “Pascarella jury fin­ishes fourth day of de­lib­er­a­tions with­out reach­ing ver­dict,” April 7, 2016 “Jury in Pascarella mur­der trial says it’s dead­locked; judge says try again ‘with an open mind’,” April 6, 2016 “Still no ver­dict in Pascarella mur­der trial in Ul­ster County Court; jury hints at be­ing dead­locked,” April 5, 2016 “No ver­dict af­ter first day of de­lib­er­a­tions in mur­der trial of Clin­ton­dale man who killed his fa­ther,” April 4, 2016 “Marl­bor­ough homi­cide: The re­sult of ‘ex­treme emo­tional dis­tress’ or a ‘pre­med­i­tated, cold-blooded mur­der’?” March 29, 2016 “Jury seated in mur­der trial of Clin­ton­dale man ac­cused of killing his fa­ther; tes­ti­mony be­gins Tues­day,” March 28, 2016 “Clin­ton­dale man pleads not guilty to mur­der in death of his fa­ther,” Oct. 21, 2015 “Clin­ton­dale man in­dicted for mur­der in De­cem­ber 2014 beat­ing death of fa­ther,” Oct. 20, 2015 “Clin­ton­dale man, 39, fa­tally as­saulted fa­ther, state po­lice say,” Dec. 27, 2014

Pascarella Jr.

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