Only hours after Gail Trait killed her four children, she was "bizarrely calm" while talking to police, a psychiatrist testified Tuesday at her non-jury retrial.
During her videotaped July 17, 1978, interview with police immediately after the slayings and later during psychiatric examinations, Ms. Trait, now 35, denied that the children were hers, Dr. John M. Wadsworth told State Supreme Court Justice Theodore S. Kasler.
"She said that the children were not hers, which is obviously a delusion," he said.
During the second day of defense testimony in the week-old trial, Wadsworth and Dr. Brian S. Joseph, the psychiatrist currently treating Ms. Trait, rejected prosecution contentions that her talk with police hours after the slayings showed her to be mentally fit.
Both psychiatrists said Ms. Trait is still suffering from the paranoid schizophrenia that they claim sparked the slayings 11 years ago.
"She was deluded when she killed her children and couldn't help it," Joseph told the judge.
Kasler is conducting a non-jury trial to determine whether Ms. Trait goes back to prison or to a state mental institution. Her 1979 murder conviction and life term were overturned by a state appeals court last year on grounds her first attorney was incompetent.
Under questioning Tuesday by defense attorney Philip M. Marshall and prosecutor George B. Quinlan, Wadsworth told the judge he examined Ms. Trait in the summer of 1978 and again the following February.
Wadsworth rejected the prosecutor's contention that the videotaped statement Ms. Trait made to police hours after the killings shows her to be rational and accountable for her conduct.
Ms. Trait's interrogators made no effort to question her in the "great depth" needed to assess her state of mind, Wadsworth testified. During the interrogation, Ms. Trait "seemed to be basically aware of what was going on around her," but psychotics usually have a partial grasp of reality, Wadsworth testified.
Joseph, who began treating Ms. Trait in April 1988, said she was "certainly subdued" during the interrogation. He testified that today she sometimes becomes confused and incoherent while talking to someone. "I don't think there's any question that she's schizophrenic," he said.