Expert: Antidepressant behind Purcell murder — (The Norman Transcript)

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 The Norman Transcript

Transcript Staff Writer

Ann Blake Tracy said when she first heard about the April 12 murder of 10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin, she “knew SSRI antidepressants were involved.”

She said her fears were confirmed when she contacted Connie Underwood, the mother of accused suspect Kevin Underwood, and Mrs. Underwood told her that Kevin had been on the antidepressant Lexapro and, after having quit Lexapro in September 2004, had begun taking the drug again in February 2006.

“He had been taking Lexapro a little over six weeks before he committed this murder,” Tracy said.

The crime attracted national attention due to grisly details revealed in the days following the murder by police and public officials.

Authorities said they believe Underwood, 26, a downstairs neighbor, lured the girl into his apartment, struck her several times over her head with a wooden cutting board and suffocated her with his hands and duct tape.

Investigators said Underwood sexually assaulted the little girl after he killed her and planned to eat the corpse.

On a motion by defense attorneys, McClain County Special District Judge Gary Barger April 18 issued a gag order that applies to attorneys on both sides, law enforcement, court officials and anyone else who deals in an official capacity with the case.

Tracy, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, said she expects to be called as a witness in the case, and did not want to discuss specifics of the case or her conversation with Mrs. Underwood.

Tracy is executive director of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness (www.drugawareness.org). She has a doctorate in health sciences with the emphasis on psychology.

The author of “Prozac: Panacea or Pandora? — Our Serotonin Nightmare,” Tracy has testified in court cases involving antidepressants for 13 years.  Examples of the more high profile cases she’s worked on include the murder/suicide of comedian Phil Hartman and his wife Brynn, the Columbine and Red Lake High School shootings, the Andrea Yates case, in which the Houston mother methodically drowned her five children, and the Atlanta Day Trader and Connecticut Lottery workplace shootings.

“The last 16 years of my life have been devoted to researching and writing about SSRI antidepressants,” she said. “These are extremely dangerous drugs that should be banned as similar drugs have been banned in the past.”

Tracy said the brain chemical these drugs increase, serotonin, is the same brain chemical that LSD, PCP and other psychedelic drugs mimic in order to produce their hallucinogenic effects.

Changes in serotonin levels can produce adverse reactions including aggression, depression, hostility, hyperactivity, psychosis, self-destructive behavior, tension and anxiety, vivid and violent dreams, an inability to tell dreams from reality, an inability to feel emotions, suicide — especially very violent suicide, impulsive behavior with no concern for punishment and argumentative behavior.

“Increasing serotonin — which is what these drugs are designed to do — induces both nightmares and sleepwalk,” she said.

It is believed that the high serotonin levels overstimulate the brain stem leading to a lack of muscle paralysis during sleep, thus allowing the patient to act out the dreams or nightmares they are having, Tracy said.

“The world witnessed that clearly in the Zoloft-induced murder-suicide of comedian Phil Hartman and his wife, Brynn,” she said. “Patients report over and over again that they have lived out their worst nightmares. And as with sleepwalk episodes, many have no recall or little recall of what they have
done.”

The Food and Drug Administration in 2004 asked manufacturers to put detailed warnings about a possible increased risk of suicidal behavior and the need for monitoring on the labels of 10 antidepressants: Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Wellbutrin, Luvox, Celexa, Lexapro, Effexor, Serzone and
Remeron. The warning included both children and adults.

In his blog writings on the Internet, Underwood wrote about his depression and feelings of being socially inept:

“Pretty much the only time I believe in God is when I want to blame Him for something. Or, when I’m really depressed, to cry and beg him to make me better, to make whatever is wrong in my brain go away, so that I can live like a normal person.

“That’s all I want in life, is to be able to live like a normal person.”

And:

“I’ve been really bad again lately. I need to have the doctor write me a prescription for more Lexapro or something, and start taking that again. I wonder if they even still make Lexapro? I checked some of those online pharmacies, to see if I could get it cheaper from Canada or something, but none of them I’ve looked at have it. They have five or six other antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, but not that one.”

In September 2004, Underwood wrote that his depression deepened after several months without taking Lexapro:

“For example, my fantasies are just getting weirder and weirder.  Dangerously weird. If people knew the kinds of things I think about anymore, I’d probably be locked away. No probably about it, I know I would be.”

Underwood said he had five refills of Lexapro left when he quit taking the drug in September 2004, Tracy said.

“So, for the last year, year and a half, he was probably taking those, and going off and on the drug. The FDA issued a warning that when taking these SSRI antidepressants, any abrupt change in dose can result in suicide, psychosis or hostility — their word to describe homicide.”

This past year the FDA has been forced to publicly agree with Tracy on several issues regarding the serious dangers of antidepressants. They have placed the strongest warnings on the drugs next to banning them — a black box warning pointing out the doubling of suicide attempts while taking any anti-depressant. Along with that warning came warnings of worsening of depression in the initial use, and suicide attempt, mania and hostility with any abrupt change in dose whether it be up or down.

“How anyone ever thought it would be therapeutic to chemically induce these reactions is beyond me. Yet, these reactions are exactly what we have witnessed in our society over the past decade and a half as a result of the widespread use of these drugs,” Tracy said.

Lexapro, the newest and fastest-growing SSRI anti-depressant, has been prescribed for more than 8 million adults in the United States.

Underwood, charged with first-degree murder, has no previous criminal record. Judge Barger entered a plea of “not guilty” on his behalf and appointed Silas Lyman, capital trial division chief for the Oklahoma
Indigent Defense System, and OIDS attorney Diane Box to represent Underwood. Prosecutors say they intend to seek the death penalty.

Underwood is being held without bond in the McClain County Jail.  A preliminary hearing conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 3.

Tom Blakey 366-3540 tblakey@normantranscript.com

 

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No Defense Case in Grisly Okla. Slaying — (USA TODAY)Man

By SEAN MURPHY 

Posted  2/28/2008 8:26 PM

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) ­ Jurors on Thursday heard a soft-spoken man describe in a videotaped interview how he lured a 10-year-old-girl into his apartment, killed her and sexually assaulted and mutilated her body.

Kevin Ray Underwood, who could be executed if convicted of murdering Jamie Rose Bolin, told FBI agents two days after she disappeared in April 2006 that he hit her over the head with a wooden cutting board while she was watching television and playing with his pet rat.

Agents asked Underwood what the girl said after he hit her.

“That’s something that’s haunted me forever since it happened,” he said. “She started yelling, I’m sorry,’ which I’m like, What is she sorry for? She didn’t do anything wrong. It’s me. I’m the one that should be sorry.'”

Underwood, 28, showed no emotion while the confession was played. One of his attorneys, Matthew Haire, held his head in his hands and looked at the ground.

Prosecution and defense attorneys rested their cases in the trial, which began Monday.

The defense did not present a case or dispute that the former grocery store stocker killed Jamie, a neighbor of his in Purcell, a small community 40 miles south of Oklahoma City. Defense attorneys said they planned to argue during the trial’s penalty phase that he doesn’t deserve to be executed for the crime.

In the FBI interview, Underwood said he regretted hitting Jamie as soon as he did it, but that by that point it was too late.

“I was sick to my stomach that I was doing this,” he told agents Craig Overby and Martin Maag. “I was literally, physically sick.”

He said he smothered the girl with his hands, sexually assaulted her lifeless body, draped the corpse over the bathtub and began sawing her neck with a decorative dagger, nearly cutting her head off.

He said the killing was part of a fantasy fueled by macabre Internet pornography. He said his plan was to kill and eat his victim.

“It started off as cannibalism … I wanted to know what it tasted like, and just the thought of eating someone was appealing to me,” Underwood told the agents.

Two days after the girl’s disappearance, authorities grew suspicious of Underwood after stopping him and his father at a police checkpoint near the apartment complex. After a short initial interview, he allowed investigators to search his apartment, where they found the girl’s nude body stuffed into a plastic tub inside his bedroom closet.

A forensic pathologist testified that Jamie was asphyxiated and had been sexually assaulted. Dr. Inas Yacoub said she was unable to determine if the girl’s injuries, including the deep gashes to the neck, occurred before or after her death.

In the videotaped interview, Underwood said his fantasies involving cannibalism began about the time he started taking the antidepressant Lexapro. Defense attorneys plan to call witnesses during the penalty phase of the trial who will testify that Underwood often appeared detached from reality and was using the drug.

Underwood also said he had spent hours standing in the doorway of his apartment, watching children who played in the apartment complex courtyard.

“I had pretty much planned all along to probably get a kid, just mainly because they’d be easier to grab and easier to get rid of afterwards, smaller, and you know, put up less of a fight,” he told the agents.

At the end of his videotaped confession, Underwood appeared to become tired and then became physically sick.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.