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

(Continued)

Walters said she inferred that Ronchi was not holding the knife during the argument, indicating that at some point, he made a conscious decision to take the knife from his jacket, pull it out of its sheath and use it.

“During that time, there could have been a decision to stop, but it was not made,” Walters testified.

Galperina was stabbed a total of 14 times, including three wounds to her chest and another 11 on her back.

Walters also said that Ronchi’s statements to investigators the following night, after he turned himself in to police in Norwalk, Conn., about covering Galperina so that her children wouldn’t see her showed his state of mind at the time. His decision to keep driving, rather than follow through with what he testified was a suicide plan on the Tobin Bridge, also showed that he could make decisions shortly after the killing, she testified.

During cross-examination, which will continue this morning, defense lawyer John Swomley questioned the thoroughness of Walters’ evaluation, suggesting that she made little or no effort to interview anyone besides Ronchi himself, and that her view of the defendant was colored by her having worked for the state for many years before entering private practice. (Walters was a forensic psychologist who conducted evaluations of patients at several state mental health facilities before establishing her own practice).

Swomley suggested that Walters had no basis for her conclusion that Ronchi had no history of mental illness, as he waved a copy of medical records of Ronchi’s admission to Beverly Hospital for what was believed to be a panic attack, records she did not review.

The prosecution’s opportunity to evaluate Ronchi had been delayed prior to trial by the defense team’s objection to the original expert the prosecution planned to use, because one of Ronchi’s attorneys was, at the time, potentially going to work with the same doctor in another case.

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