SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

November 6, 2012

Ronchi was not mentally ill, says expert

Psychologist hired by prosecutors refutes defense's claim in murder trial

SALEM — A forensic psychologist hired by prosecutors to evaluate Peter Ronchi told jurors yesterday that the Marblehead man, charged with stabbing his pregnant girlfriend to death, showed no signs of a mental illness or defect.

Dr. Tali Walters’ conclusions were the opposite of those offered by a defense-hired expert last week in Ronchi’s trial on two counts of first-degree murder for the May 2009 deaths of Yulyia Galperina, 42, and their unborn son, whom Galperina had named David.

The defense contends that Ronchi, now 48, “lost it” after Galperina told him that the child, due to be born within the following week, was not his. They’re hoping to convince a jury that Ronchi is guilty of a lesser offense, such as second-degree murder or manslaughter.

But prosecutors say Ronchi acted both with premeditation and extreme atrocity or cruelty.

Walters was called by the prosecution to refute the testimony of the defense expert, Dr. Thomas Deters, who told jurors that Ronchi has symptoms of eight mental disorders or impairments, including Asperger’s syndrome, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, hypochondria, a schizoid disorder that caused him to withdraw from contact with others, and indications of brain trauma, including a cyst on the frontal lobe of his brain.

Walters, in about 41/2 hours of interviewing Ronchi, testified yesterday that she did not see any of those when she interviewed him in August.

Instead, she told the Salem Superior Court jury, Ronchi showed indications that he was fully capable of controlling his anger that night, pointing to the escalating argument and his decision to leave, when he announced that he would send money for the baby.

“It didn’t occur in an instantaneous moment,” Walters testified under questioning by prosecutor Jean Curran. “There was an increase in emotional tension and intensity over a period of time and an increase in the seriousness of the words that were said.”

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