Man on trial for killing grandparents found not guilty by reason of insanity

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Jun. 9—Psychiatrists for the defense and prosecution both agreed on one thing: Marcus Fisher was so mentally ill, he couldn't control himself the morning that he stabbed both of his grandparents to death.

A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday, after hearing testimony from the psychiatrists, that although Fisher was responsible for the murders, he was not guilty by reason of insanity.

Psychiatrists Dr. Catherine Lewis testified for the prosecutor and Dr. Peter Morgan, for the defense. Both said Fisher was "grossly psychotic" at the time of the murders on Jan. 28, 2019, and was suffering from a psychotic episode consistent with their diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Morgan, who evaluated Fisher in 2019, said Fisher told him that he thought his life was an arcade game and needed to insert another coin to keep living. He told Morgan that God and a "third eye" told Fisher that he could get another coin without dying himself if he killed his grandparents.

Fisher, who was 18 at the time of the murders, had been living with his grandparents — 77-year-old Gertrude Piscezek and 76-year-old John Piscezek — at their home in Montville. Multiple witnesses testified that Fisher had said he loved his grandparents and got along with them and had moved in with them from Minnesota in order to straighten out his life.

Psychiatrists said that Fisher had no documented history of mental illness or violence, though he'd had some behavioral problems at school. They said Fisher's initial symptoms of schizophrenia, which often include losing interest in life, began for the teen about nine months to a year before the murders.

Both psychiatrists testified that Fisher is being given antipsychotic medication at Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown but continues to experience significant psychosis, including auditory hallucinations, disordered thinking and poor memory. Morgan testified that the fact that Fisher is still considered psychotic while receiving treatment indicates his psychosis was severe at the time of the murders.

Gasping for breath through heavy sobs on Tuesday, Fisher's mother and the victims' daughter, Shannon Fisher, said she had no idea that her son was sick or that he would ever hurt anyone — let alone kill her parents. "He didn't have a violent bone in his body," she said.

The night before the murders, she said, she spoke to her mother on the phone one last time; she told her she loved her and asked her to send her father her love. She said she had no idea anything would go wrong.

"My parents were wonderful people, the world lost so much that day," she said.

In the months prior to the murders, she said, her son had lost interest in things he had once enjoyed: singing in a choir, being involved in his church, playing musical instruments and cooking. "He had a light in his eyes and it had just gone out," she said, "but I didn't notice what was happening. I thought he was just a teenage boy." She said she was relieved to hear the doctors say the first signs of schizophrenia often are missed by parents.

In the parking lot outside the courthouse Tuesday, Shannon Fisher flipped through photos on her phone of Marcus at his prom in Minnesota a few years ago. She said she wants the community to know that her son is not a monster. She recalled when he stood up to stop a disabled student from being bullied, his love of animals and his protective nature toward his younger sisters.

"Now I look at him and it's like I hardly recognize him," she said.

She hopes he will receive the mental health care that he needs.

"My parents' deaths and my son's situation — it has to count for something," she said through tears. She hopes the stigma around mental illness and health care will someday lessen and urges anyone who thinks they may have symptoms of mental illness, or notices a change in their child's behavior, to get help before it's too late.

Other relatives of the victims also attended court proceedings but did not comment on the ruling. Prosecutor Theresa Ferryman addressed the family's concerns that Fisher was faking his mental illness. Both doctors testified that his psychosis was real, not made up as a means of defense. The court's ruling and doctors' testimony both indicated that at the time of the murders, Fisher was incapable of controlling his behavior or recognizing that what he was doing was wrong.

A ruling of not guilty by reason of insanity means that Fisher faces a sentence of up to 140 years for his crimes, but at the state's hospital for the criminally insane: Whiting Forensic Hospital in Middletown. The three judges on Tuesday continued his case until Aug. 5, when they will consider a recommendation from the state's mental health commissioner. Judge Hillary B. Strackbein said the court hopes to rule on the sentence on that date.

Ferryman asked the court to recognize the danger Fisher poses to himself and society when imposing the sentence.

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