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Baumhammers ruled not fit to go on trial

Shooting rampage suspect will get 90 days of psychiatric treatment

Friday, May 19, 2000

By Jim McKinnon, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Richard Baumhammers has been ordered to undergo at least 90 days of psychiatric treatment before he stands trial in the April 28 slayings of five people in two counties and wounding another.

  Richard Baumhammers (Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette)

After the 90 days of treatment, Baumhammers will be re-evaluated to see if he is then fit to take part in his own defense and to understand the charges against him.

In making the ruling yesterday, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lawrence J. O'Toole said he agreed with the conclusions of three psychiatrists who examined Baumhammers, 34, and determined that he was mentally incompetent to stand trial.

O'Toole denied a motion by Deputy District Attorney Edward J. Borkowski to have another psychiatrist examine Baumhammers, who in addition to five counts of homicide, faces charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation, reckless endangerment and arson.

All of the victims of the April 28 shootings were considered ethnic or religious minorities.

Killed were: Anita "Nicki" Gordon, 63, Baumhammers' neighbor in Mt. Lebanon, whose house was set on fire after she was shot; Anil Thakur, 31, of Bihar, India; Thao Q. "Tony" Pham, 27, of Castle Shannon; and Ji-Ye "Jerry" Sun, 34, of Churchill; and Garry Lee, 22, of Aliquippa, who was gunned down in a martial arts studio in Center, Beaver County.

A sixth victim, Sandip Patel, 25, of Plum, who was critically injured, was discharged yesterday from Mercy Hospital and is believed to be in a rehabilitation facility.

Baumhammers, who lived with his parents in Mt. Lebanon, has claimed to be an attorney specializing in immigration.


Expert vary on Baumhammers diagnoses

For complete coverage of the April 28 shooting rampage click here.


Although Baumhammers has a history of psychiatric treatment dating to 1993, Borkowski has argued that he fully understands the charges against him.

Borkowski cited Baumhammers' refusal to discuss details of his charges or his arrest when he was interviewed by the three psychiatrists. He told each of the doctors that his lawyers advised him not to discuss the charges with anyone.

Lead defense attorney William Difenderfer has not said whether he will pursue a strategy that would claim Baumhammers is insane.

Three experts -- Dr. Christine Martone, director of the Allegheny County Behavior Clinic which provides treatment for inmates at the county jail, Dr. Sabato A. Stile, who has worked with the Behavior Clinic for 20 years, and Dr. David E. Ness, who also has done work for the Behavior Clinic -- reached similar conclusions after interviewing Baumhammers.

Martone diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenic. She testified at Baumhammers' competency hearing last week that he is easily distracted, withdrawn, unresponsive, and distrustful of her inquiries, and out of touch with reality.

Stile testified Wednesday that Baumhammers suffers from psychotic thought disorder, a generalized condition that he said could be caused by a schizophrenia-related disease.

Ness testified that, based on his brief interview, Baumhammers was paranoid, had faulty thought processes and struggled to contain his rage when under stress.

Ness testified that Baumhammers "would have difficulty, at best, collaborating in his own defense."

Since his arrest on April 28, Baumhammers has been administered mild doses of psychotropic drugs -- Trilifon and Ativan -- but not enough to have an effect on his mental illnesses, Dr. Martone testified.

O'Toole ordered Baumhammers to be treated at Mayview State Hospital where he will undergo 24-hour psychiatric care and receive full doses of medications.

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