Defendant in murder case is judged insane

July 15, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

A judge on Monday found that Timothy Dale Wood - who was charged with killing his grandmother by hitting her in the head with a cast-iron skillet - is not guilty by reason of insanity.

Circuit Court Judge Christopher Wilkes ordered Wood, 38, to spend the rest of his life in a mental institution, meaning Wood will not have a trial.

After the 25-minute court hearing, family members gathered around Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely. "He's never getting out? Do you swear?" one woman asked her.


Within a few days, Wood will be taken to William R. Sharpe Jr. Hospital in Weston, W.Va., which is a 24-hour locked-down facility, Games-Neely said. The chance of him ever being released is slim, she said.

A psychiatrist and psychologist both diagnosed Wood as being a paranoid schizophrenic.

Before sentencing him, Wilkes asked Wood to stand and answer questions. When asked whether he wanted Wilkes to determine if he is mentally incompetent, Wood said, "I don't want a trial," and added moments later, "It's OK if you do it, yes."

When Wilkes asked Wood whether he believed spending life in a mental institution was an appropriate resolution to the case, Wood replied, "I don't see how there's any other way."

Wood was charged with murder after West Virginia State Police Trooper Nathan Harmon spotted him walking in the rain along W.Va. 9 at around 2:30 a.m. on July 14, 2002, exactly one year before Monday's court hearing.

While talking to Wood, Harmon spotted a small amount of dried blood between the fingers of Wood's right hand. When Harmon asked Wood how the blood got on his hand, Wood said he had gotten into an argument with his grandmother - Geneva Wood, 79 - and punched a wall.

Fearing a possible domestic situation, Harmon asked police dispatchers to call Wood's home in Hedgesville, W.Va., to see if Geneva Wood was OK. As Wood waited in Harmon's police cruiser, he asked whether people were executed for killing someone. Harmon told him that West Virginia does not have the death penalty and then asked why Wood would ask that question.

"Well ... I killed her," Wood replied, according to police reports.

Harmon went to Wood's home and walked in after nobody answered the door. He found Geneva Wood on the floor beside a couch. Cushions on the couch were soaked in blood and a bloody pillow partially covered her face.

On a kitchen counter, Harmon found a skillet that had dried and wet blood on it.

When he gave a statement to police a few hours later, Wood said he killed his grandmother because he wanted to start a new life. He waited until she was asleep, then hit her several times with the skillet, according to police reports. After rifling through her belongings in an unsuccessful attempt to find money, Wood hit her several more times to ensure she was dead, records allege.

Crime fantasies

According to a 16-page forensic psychological evaluation report by psychologist Nina Shinaberry, Wood said he "has fantasies involving the commission of crimes, but that when he actually commits such acts he is disappointed in the 'way it makes me feel.'"

Adopted by his grandmother when he was 4 years old, Wood finished eighth grade but then left school, according to the report. Before he was incarcerated, Wood drank 12 to 24 cans of soda and smoked about five packs of cigarettes every day, records show.

Wood told the psychologist that his mental problems started when he was 12 years old. A few years later, he attacked his grandmother with a poker, records show.

In subsequent years, Wood was hospitalized numerous times for mental problems, according to the report.

He told his psychologist, "I unleashed in this fantasy (murder). I saw a criminal on me, a very futuristic criminal. I pictured me talking to the devil and darkness fell on L.A. There was one that I called the Maker and he took Manhattan hostage. I like to live out these dramas," according to the report.

Referring to the night he killed his grandmother, Wood said, "You have to understand, it's not something I couldn't resist. It's something that happened. It's not a matter of power. If a voice had told me to stop, I might not have done it. I could have been crazy that night, but there wasn't anything special going on that night."

Wood said he started thinking about killing his grandmother on that July night after they argued about his desire to move out.

He told the psychologist, "I thought it was glory. That the best thing was to get her out of the way and then I could go on and live out my criminal fantasies. I went looking for the right weapon," according to the report. He added later, "The murder itself didn't give me a charge. It didn't feel anything like I wanted to feel."

Both Games-Neely and Wood's attorney, Deborah Lawson, said they believe Wood will best be served by spending his life in a mental institution.

"The truth is, he should have been hospitalized long before this," Lawson said after the hearing.

Because Wood was cognizant enough to ask Harmon on the night of the murder if people are executed for killing someone, Games-Neely said she had to first consider the possibility that Wood was putting on an act with regard to his mental problems.

She said, however, she trusts the doctors, who rarely deem someone to be incompetent.

Sentencing him to a mental institution is a "good resolution" that allows Wood to be in a controlled environment and satisfies his family that he cannot walk free, Games-Neely said.

Family members declined to speak to reporters.

A parole board will not see Wood. Instead, updates on Wood will be sent to a local Circuit Court judge, who will determine if he should be released, Games-Neely said.

Outside the courthouse, one of Wood's family members started to leave but then quickly walked back to Harmon.

She said she wanted to shake his hand. "Thank you for being there that night," she told him.

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