Psychologist: Accused murderer suffers from an anxiety disorder — (The Merced Sun-Star)

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The Merced Sun-Star (CA)

May 10, 2003

A psychologist testified Friday that accused murderer Arnulfo Rio Zepeda suffers from an anxiety disorder – one that could have struck the day a 20-year-old man was shot at the Atwater Flea Market.

Pedro Ramos was shot with a shotgun and killed in October of 2001.

Dr. Richard Black, a defense witness who examined Zepeda, 28, said he suffers from a generalized anxiety disorder, as well as depression.

Both conditions, Black testified in Merced County Superior Court, could have been aggravated by Zepeda’s use of various illicit drugs.

A 17-year-old boy confessed to second-degree murder in the shooting and is serving time with the California Youth Authority.

The boy, a self-described former Norteno gang member, testified that Zepeda requested that he provide “backup” for a possible fight with rival Sureno gang members at the flea market.

According to the boy, Zepeda stuffed a sawed-off shotgun down his pants, while the boy was armed with a pipe. Zepeda allegedly told the boy that rival gang members were harassing him.

Black testified that Zepeda’s anxiety disorder made him particularly dependent upon the guidance of others. He said that Zepeda paid frequent visits to doctors and was treated with various anti-depressants and anti-stress drugs, such as Prozac, Paxil and other drugs.

“All these medications are typically used to manage anxiety,” Black said.

He went on to say that Zepeda should have hypothetically had no problem working as a CD salesman at the flea market, unless he felt threatened in some way.

“I would think that one could participate in this activity (selling CDs) … as long as it didn’t become contentious, or there was a negative attitude about it,” Black said.

He added that Zepeda “medicated himself,” as a means of “escape,” with illegal substances.

“When people have a bad feeling – whether it’s a panic attack or whatever it is – the way they feel better is to self-medicate.”

Black said symptoms of an anxiety disorder include heart palpitations, profuse sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pains and hyperventilating, among others.

When questioned by defense attorney Art Collins, Black said that running away is a sign of the disorder.

Zepeda is accused of shooting Ramos, and then running to his truck.

Record Number: 1024454EDE9D9CB8

Copyright, 2003, The Merced Sun-Star