Salvatore Garrasi III was criminally insane when he fatally stabbed his wife two years ago, according to a psychiatrist who has treated him since he killed his son in 1983.
Testifying for the defense this morning during Garrasi's trial on second-degree murder charges, Dr. Brian Joseph said Garrasi "was not responsible (mentally)" Aug. 2, 1998, when he killed his wife, Jeannette, 57. He said Garrasi was mentally ill at the time and should have been hospitalized earlier that year.
Garrasi, 61, went on trial a week ago before State Supreme Court Justice Joseph S. Forma. He has been in jail since his arrest shortly after the fatal stabbing in the same Auburn Street home where he had killed his 10-year-old son, Salvatore IV.
Garrasi was sent to a state mental institution after pleading innocent by reason of insanity in the boy's murder. He had been a psychiatric outpatient for about eight years before his wife's death.
Joseph told the jury that psychiatric experts dealing with Garrasi "should have made sure this didn't happen." Garrasi's belief that someone is out to get him is part of his deluded thinking resulting from chronic and incurable paranoid schizophrenia, and he couldn't appreciate that what he was doing to his wife was criminal, the psychiatrist testified.
Testifying last week in his own defense, Garrasi repeatedly claimed he had killed his wife in self-defense.
Joseph told the jury he does not completely fault the professionals handling Garrasi because of continuing problems in getting the mentally disturbed rehospitalized. But Joseph noted that when he was working with state officials in 1991 and approved Garrasi's release from the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, he urged that he be rehospitalized if he suffered any relapse.
Defense lawyer John R. Nuchereno said outside the courtroom that he asked Joseph to testify because he was the psychiatric expert involved with his client "from the beginning and is in the best position to tell people about Sal's mental condition."
Joseph told the jury that Garrasi abruptly ended his 14-year career as a Buffalo firefighter in 1997 because of his incorrect view that he was suffering from some medical ailments that prevented him from continuing.
That, he said, probably was an early sign of mental deterioration.
Referring to Garrasi's testimony that that he doesn't feel guilty because he had to kill his wife in self-defense, Joseph said Garrasi "doesn't like the idea of being sick."
"Mr. Garrasi fakes being well," Joseph testified. "He'll tell you he's well," even though his condition has continued to worsen in recent years.