Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Man mentally ill during hammer attack: defence

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It's a question police and prosecutors struggle with: Why would a seemingly loving, caring Winnipeg man beat his wife of 36 years to death with a claw hammer?

Lawyers for accused killer Miloslav Kapsik are trying to answer that question by using medical evidence they say shows he was mentally ill at the time.

Kapsik, 63, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder for the March 2010 slaying of his wife, Ludmila, 59. Kapsik wants to be found not criminally responsible. If successful, he would not go to prison, but would instead be placed under the care of medical officials.

The first defence witness testified Wednesday, telling jurors Kapsik suffered from "major depression and psychotic features" at the time of the attack. Dr. Giovana Levin, a forensic psychiatrist at Health Sciences Centre, spent months working closely with Kapsik following his arrest. She said he was wrestling with sleep deprivation, suicidal thoughts and he was hearing voices.

"The voices progressed. They led to extreme distractibility and an inability to focus," said Levin. Kapsik said he began hearing "mumbling" in his head in early 2009 and considered ending his own life. He bought a rope and planned to hang himself, but changed his mind, jurors were told.

Medical records showed Kapsik was first diagnosed with severe depression in 2003. He gave up his job as a bus driver because he was unable to cope, said Levin.

The Crown is challenging Kapsik's claim of mental illness, saying he knew what he was doing, even if there is no apparent motive for smashing Ludmila at least 57 times with the weapon. Prosecutor Jennifer Mann has urged jurors to pay attention to the way Kapsik acted after his arrest, describing him as "calm, responsive to questions and coherent" in his dealings with police.

A videotaped police interview was shown to jurors earlier this week, in which Kapsik repeatedly declined to speak about what happened. Two homicide investigators spent hours grilling him, questioning whether Ludmila had said or done something to provoke him. They also wondered how Kapsik could be so calm considering the brutality of the killing and the fact he admitted to spending more than an hour on the couch as his wife lay dying before he called 911.

"I wanted to cool down a little bit," he explained. Ludmila was attacked inside their Jefferson Avenue apartment. Kapsik said the couple was watching TV when he got up, grabbed a hammer and began hitting his wife from behind.

The Kapsiks moved to Canada from the Czech Republic and had no children. There was also no history of domestic violence. Jurors heard Wednesday Kapsik was arrested in 1976 for beating a man with a rolling pin. Kapsik and his wife had been involved in an "intimate relationship" with the man, whom he thought was a woman, court was told. Kapsik was given a conditional discharge.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 28, 2013 A8

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