Jailhouse interview: Murder suspect Cameron Terhune says nothing he did measured up—(The Modesto Bee)

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The Modesto Bee

By Emilie Raguso,  eraguso@modbee.com

March 18, 2009

Cameron Terhune said it was almost a relief in January when police picked him up near a friend’s house after they found his parents’ bodies in their Del Rio home.   Ken and Diane Terhune had been shot to death two days earlier.

Terhune, 24, hadn’t slept or eaten in days. He had left home and wasn’t sure if police were looking for him, he said Tuesday at the Stanislaus County Jail.

Friends say medication changed Modesto man charged with killing parents   “I was looking for a place to crash,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

In a 90-minute interview, Terhune talked about his life, his sense of being misunderstood by everyone and what it’s like to be in jail.

Terhune said he wouldn’t talk about his parents’ deaths because of his pending trial. He has pleaded not guilty in their killings.

He said he hasn’t gotten used to jailhouse food, and writing and drawing with golf pencils, the only writing tool inmates are allowed. Or walking with chains on his wrists and ankles when he leaves his cell. Or life without cigarettes and music. TV commercials for food, like pizza, are a cruel temptation.

Friends said Terhune was devastated in the fall when the Navy rejected him after offering him a plum assignment. Friends said he was overmedicated for anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.  The combination, they said, led to the deadly attack Jan. 13.

Terhune said he was disappointed by the Navy’s decision not to let him serve, but that it wasn’t the only reason for the emotional problems he faced in the fall.

“That sucked,” he said about the Navy letting him go, “but everything sucked.”

He had been under a lot of pressure to find a job. When the Navy opportunity arose, everyone was excited he was “finally” going to “do something” with his life, Terhune said.

Then the Navy got a copy of his medical records, he said, and didn’t like what it saw about blackouts, hallucinations and persistent migraines.

When he couldn’t find a job, he agreed with his parents’ plan to go to school to be a pharmacy technician. But Terhune said he wasn’t excited about it.

From the time he was 5, he said, his parents pushed him to succeed, but he always felt he fell short.

“Whatever I could do was not really good enough,” he said.

No one from the Terhune family has been willing to speak to The Bee, but a family friend has said that the Terhunes were good parents who supported their son’s efforts to make a life for himself.

Cameron Terhune said his father didn’t believe he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. His dad told him he should take responsibility for his problems and not look for a label to explain them.

“No one ever listened to me,” he said. Doctors would advise him to eat better or exercise but couldn’t help with the daily headaches he had for more than four years or explain his behavior or moods.

Terhune said he was taking five prescriptions in the fall to deal with symptoms of schizophrenia: Xanax, Klonopin, Wellbutrin, Celexa and something for high blood pressure. The last three, he said, “didn’t do much except make me care less when something bad happened.”

He said he had not been able to afford medication specifically for schizophrenia, so a doctor prescribed some cheaper alternatives to address the symptoms.

In January, he decided to stop taking the pills, he said. He had tried it in November and suffered strange side effects and hallucinations. His throat, he said, was numb for a month. He went back on the medication but changed his mind weeks later.

He said the withdrawal was rough in January, too, but would not elaborate.

“I’ve spent a lot of time trying to explain why I think I did something,” he said about his life. “It’s always a waste of time.”

Bee staff writer Emilie Raguso can be reached at eraguso@modbee.com or