SALEM — A neuropsychologist hired by Peter Ronchi’s defense team told jurors yesterday that he believes Ronchi “was not effectively able to weigh the pros and cons of his actions” when he repeatedly stabbed his pregnant girlfriend to death on the evening of May 16, 2009.
Dr. Thomas Deters also said Ronchi was unable to understand the cruelty of his actions that night, given his “neuropsychological dysfunction,” which included symptoms of eight psychiatric disorders, as well as a cyst on his brain.
Ronchi, 48, is hoping to convince the Salem Superior Court jury that his girlfriend, Yulyia Galperina, 42, provoked him that night by purportedly telling him that their child, a baby boy due to be born within the week, was not his. The rage he felt caused him to “snap” and kill her in the heat of passion, he has said.
Prosecutors argue that the stabbing, which killed both Galperina and the baby, was premeditated, noting that Ronchi brought a knife and a change of clothing to the victim’s Salem Heights apartment.
Yesterday, prosecutor Jean Curran tried to counter Deters’ testimony by asking how he drew those conclusions about Ronchi’s state of mind at the time of the stabbing without knowing what actually happened in those moments.
Ronchi claims to have no memory of stabbing Galperina, only of feeling enraged and later standing in the bathroom covered in blood.
Curran also pressed Deters on his conclusion that Ronchi was unable to weigh the consequences of his decision to kill Galperina that night, pointing to a series of choices Ronchi made before and after the stabbing, including telling Galperina he was leaving her and later driving to the Tobin Bridge to commit suicide, but then changing his mind.
And while Deters testified yesterday that Ronchi suffered from symptoms of eight disorders, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, Asperger’s, hypochondria and even an inability to identify his own emotions, alexithymia, he told jurors yesterday that he did not formally diagnose Ronchi with all of them.
Only Ronchi’s symptoms of depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances met the criteria for a diagnosis at the time of the evaluation, Deters said. He based his belief that Ronchi suffered from other conditions on interviews with Ronchi, his family and a friend, Deters said.
But if Ronchi suffered from a condition in which he could not identify emotions, such as alexithymia or Asperger’s, the prosecutor challenged that theory with Ronchi’s own testimony that he was angry and enraged at Galperina on the night he killed her.
On Monday, Curran is expected to call her own expert witness to challenge the conclusions by Deters.
Closing arguments in the case are scheduled for Tuesday.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.