Tragic buildup to Con­cord teen al­legedly killing his mother

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Nate Gartrell

CON­CORD >> A Con­cord man who al­legedly ad­mit­ted to fa­tally stab­bing his mother in the en­try­way of her apart­ment told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he was hear­ing “voices in his head” or­der­ing the killing, po­lice said.

Po­lice would later learn that Har­ri­son Mercier, 18, had been strug­gling with men­tal ill­ness for months be­fore he al­legedly stabbed 59-year-old El­iz­a­beth Barry in her apart­ment on the 3500 block of Treat Boule­vard. Po­lice say Mercier called 9-1-1 on him­self af­ter the killing, telling in­ves­ti­ga­tors he was re­spond­ing to voice com­mands in his head.

Mercier also al­legedly told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that he had made videos about the Feb. 5 killing. Po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the claim. He also sug­gested the voices in his head may have come from hor­ror movies he had been watch­ing, ref­er­enc­ing the “Saw” se­ries by name, po­lice said.

Mercier’s ac­count of the killing could play heav­ily into his le­gal de­fense. Con­tra Costa pros­e­cu­tors charged him with mur­der and use a knife, and he faces a life sen­tence. By con­trast, if he pleads not guilty by rea­son of in­san­ity, and is ac­quit­ted, he fill face time in a men­tal in­sti­tu­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, fam­ily mem­bers no­ticed Mercier had been strug­gling with men­tal ill­ness for at least a year. His par­ents, di­vorced and liv­ing apart, had made ef­forts to help him. Just days be­fore Barry’s death, Mercier had been ad­mit­ted to a 30day Out­ward Bound hik­ing pro­gram, and had dropped out within a week.

Af­ter drop­ping out, Mercier went to his fa­ther’s home in Oak­land. Upon Mercier’s re­turn, his fa­ther de­cided Mercier could ben­e­fit from time with his mother, and sug­gested he visit her. Mercier took a bus to Con­cord to visit his mother on Feb. 2, three days be­fore the killing.

If Mercier en­ters an in­san­ity plea, it would re­quire two tri­als. In the first, ju­rors would de­ter­mine whether he was fac­tu­ally guilty of mur­der. Upon a con­vic­tion, the same jury would then re­view ev­i­dence to de­ter­mine whether he was legally sane at the time of the killing.

Such a move is rare, though two re­cent ex­am­ples have had wildly dif­fer­ent re­sults. Last Septem­ber, a Wal­nut Creek se­cu­rity guard reachedapl­ead­eal­with­pros­e­cu­tors where he was sen­tenced to 15 years to life in a men­tal in­sti­tu­tion, for killing a col­league for no rea­son. He blamed voices in his head and had re­cently run out of schizophre­nia med­i­ca­tion.

In 2017, Wil­liam Shultz re­ceived a life sen­tence for mur­der­ing 9-year-old Jor­dan Alm­gren dur­ing a sleep­over at Alm­gren’s home. Shultz, 18 at the time, said he be­lieved the world was end­ing and wanted to see what it was like to kill some­one. He was con­victed of first de­gree mur­der, found legally sane, and sen­tenced to life with­out a chance for pa­role for 30 years.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.