Saturday, June 7, 2003

Psychologist says killer
has mental disorder

A court-martial is told David
DeArmond had an abusive stepmother

A Navy psychologist testified yesterday that a Pearl Harbor sailor who killed his Singaporean wife and mother-in-law last summer suffers from a severe dependent personality disorder.

Testifying for the defense, Lt. Cmdr. Eric Cunhan, a clinical psychologist, told a Navy court-martial that Petty Officer David DeArmond's problems stem from a troubled childhood and an abusive stepmother.

DeArmond, 33, pleaded guilty last month to murdering his mother-in-law, Saniah Abdul Ghani, and involuntary manslaughter of his wife, Zaleha, in a fight June 10 at the couple's home near Pearl Harbor.

Since Tuesday a jury has been hearing evidence before passing sentence on DeArmond, a 14-year Navy veteran. DeArmond confessed to the double killings. Under a plea agreement, the maximum jail sentence the jury can impose is 30 years or less.

Although DeArmond, a Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard technician, knew that his wife was unfaithful, he was unable to divorce her because he was afraid she would take their three children to Singapore.

"He was bound up with a desire to please other people," Cunhan said, and afraid of being abandoned by someone he was extremely dependent upon.

However, prosecuting attorney Adam Palmer argued that four months before the June 10 killings, DeArmond saw a social worker at the Family Support Center who diagnosed him as having marital and not mental problems.

During yesterday's day-long session, DeArmond's family testified that he; his twin brother, Donald; and their sister, Tracy, were abused by their stepmother.

Tracy DeArmond said their stepmother's punishment included forcing the children to kneel on raw pimento beans, eating bugs, pulling their hair, swearing at them and hitting them.

"She was very evil," Tracy DeArmond said, "very mean and very abusive."


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