By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A schizophrenic man who fatally stabbed his five-year-old brother had a “genetic predisposition” to the mental illness that was further compounded by marijuana abuse, a psychiatrist told a Supreme Court judge yesterday.
Dr John Dillard, a licensed psychiatrist with the Public Hospitals Authority, testified of his evaluation done on 23-year-old Wenzell Knowles who is awaiting sentencing concerning the December 20, 2012 death of Dequan Clarke.
Knowles pleaded not guilty to murder when formally arraigned in the Supreme Court in January 2014 and maintained that plea when the charge was read to him last October for the expected start of his trial.
However, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter by diminished responsibility instead and the sentencing was adjourned on four occasions until yesterday.
According Dr Dillard, Knowles suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, in which the patient has delusions that a person or some individuals are plotting against them or members of their family.
“There are some persons who have a genetic predisposition to getting it,” the psychiatrist told prosecutor Terry Archer.
The prosecutor asked if substance abuse played a factor in the occurrence of the mental disorder.
“Use of marijuana was certainly a factor but we also attributed this to genetic predisposition. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for schizophrenia but with treatment it can be suppressed,” the doctor said.
Dr Dillard said that Knowles has been receiving treatment and “we saw significant reduction in his symptoms.”
The prosecutor asked if there was a possibility of relapse.
“If he’s not on treatment or uses a substance that triggers the condition, he could become psychotic,” the physician admitted.
Knowles’ lawyer, Jiaram Mangra, asked the psychiatrist if he had recent contact with his client. Dr Dillard said yes.
“A week ago he was doing quite well. His communication skills were excellent and his ability to comprehend was above average. He’s stable,” the psychiatrist said.
Mr Mangra asked if it was possible that Knowles could be released from custody in the future and the psychiatrist said the possibility existed “but there would have to be safeguards.”
“Certainly with the improvements he’s shown, he can be discharged in the future,” Dr Dillard said.
“Has he shown any violent tendencies since being remanded to the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre?” the lawyer asked.
“There’s been behavioral issues but not abnormal in our environment. However, he’s not shown any violence of a physical nature at Sandilands thus far,” the psychiatrist said.
Mr Mangra asked if he would expect violent tendencies from an untreated paranoid schizophrenic. Dr Dillard said yes.
“When someone is out of touch with reality, they could become violent,” the psychiatrist said.
Justice Indra Charles has reserved her decision on sentencing until March 22.
On the evening in question, the five-year-old victim was found in a bedroom wrapped in a sheet with a stab wound in his chest. His throat was slit.
Knowles, upon initial evaluation at Sandilands, compared the killing to stories in the Bible and suggested he was making “a sacrifice like Abraham had to sacrifice his son.”
However, in a probation report prepared for the court, Knowles was documented as saying that he was unable to recall what transpired the day of his brother’s death.
He claimed he was saddened by his brother’s death, a probation officer said at a hearing two weeks ago.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and acts, resulting in difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imaginary. It may also leave the individual unresponsive or withdrawn and affected individuals may have difficulty expressing normal emotions in social situations.