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Shooter's sanity argued at trial; Testimony in double slaying.

Byline: Gary V. Murray

WORCESTER - Two expert witnesses offered conflicting opinions in court yesterday concerning Christian Muller's mental state when he shot three people in the head in an apartment in Dudley four years ago, killing two of the victims.

Paul A. Spiers, a psychologist called to the stand by Mr. Muller's lawyer, John H. LaChance, told a Worcester Superior Court jury Mr. Muller was legally insane at the time of the shootings and lacked criminal responsibility for his actions.

Psychologist Karin Towers, who later testified as a rebuttal witness for the prosecution, said Mr. Muller may have been suffering from a mental disease or defect at the time, but was criminally responsible for his conduct.

Mr. Muller, 30, of Webster, has raised an insanity defense to murder, home invasion, assault with intent to murder and firearm charges stemming from a July 9, 2007, shooting rampage that left two people dead and a third seriously injured.

Aaron Bash, 31, and Denise Johnston, 36, died from gunshot wounds to the head admittedly inflicted by Mr. Muller in a third-floor apartment at 25 West Main St. in Dudley. Joanne Mercier, Mr. Bash's sister, was also shot in the head and survived.

"Essentially, Mr. Muller's brain was not in control of his behavior at this time," Mr. Spiers told the jury.

Hired by Mr. LaChance to evaluate Mr. Muller, Mr. Spiers testified that Mr. Muller was suffering from severe neuro-developmental problems compounded by a long history of substance abuse at the time of the shootings.

He said his evaluation included a review of psychiatric records that showed Mr. Muller had been diagnosed in the past as suffering from a variety of mental diseases, including bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and depression with psychotic features.

He said varied diagnoses are not uncommon when someone is also suffering from neuro-developmental deficits that affect their thought processes.

Ms. Towers, later called as a rebuttal witness by Assistant District Attorney Christopher P. Hodgens, said she believed Mr. Muller was able to both understand the wrongfulness of his conduct and conform his behavior to the requirements of the law at the time of the shootings.

Although he may have been suffering from an antisocial personality disorder or a substance-induced psychotic disorder when he shot the victims, Mr. Muller was criminally responsible, Ms. Towers opined.

Mr. Muller's trial was scheduled to resume this morning.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Mr. Muller

NOTE: 2007 INCIDENT
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Mar 11, 2011
Words:402
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