A Burlington man on trial for murdering his wife “was controlled by voices” and unable to tell right from wrong when he killed Yogeswari Khadka and seriously injured her mother with a meat-cleaver, a forensic psychiatrist testified Monday.
Attorneys for Aita Gurung argue that he was insane at the time of the October 2017 attack and had just been released from psychiatric care. Prosecutors say Khadka was the victim of domestic abuse and that Gurung killed her because she had displeased him.
Previous witnesses for the defense detailed Gurung’s repeated attempts to get mental-health treatment in 2016 and 2017, as well as his bouts of heavy drinking. Jurors on Monday heard a tape recording of an evaluation of Gurung by forensic psychiatrist David Rosmarin, who continued testimony that began Friday.
The evaluation was conducted with the help of a translator. At one point, Gurung said he drank beer to feel less fearful. Rosmarin asked, “When you were searching for the beer, before you saw the knife, were you hearing any voices?”
Gurung replied, “Yeah.” Then through a translator, he said, “I had heard the voices, ‘hit her, hit her.’”
Rosmarin testified that Gurung’s memory and perception of the attack was skewed by his psychosis.
“He was being controlled by the voices, and at the time of the killing, his free will was overwhelmed by the voices,” Rosmarin said. “And at that time, he lacked adequate capacity to conform his behavior to the law.”
On cross-examination, prosecutor Rose Kennedy suggested that Gurung, who was unemployed at the time of the killing, was faking mental illness in order to get out of working.
“Malingering is faking symptoms for a secondary gain, does that sound right?” she asked Rosmarin.”But that secondary gain does not have to be something big, right, like an insanity defense in a murder case, correct?”
“Sure,” he replied.
Testimony will continue Tuesday when Vermont state psychiatrist Catherine Lewis is expected to take the stand.
Gurung is on trial for first-degree murder and attempted murder. His case was dismissed by Chittenden Couty State’s Attorney Sarah George in 2019, based on her belief that her office would be unable to rebut an insanity defense.
At the request of Gov. Phil Scott, then-Attorney General TJ Donovan looked at the evidence and decided to file the murder charges.