The Sam Kastanis Case — (HBO)

SSRI Ed note: Woman in withdrawal from Prozac, Trazodone stabs her 3 children, herself to death, husband is charged but escapes due to testimony of astute pathologist.

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The Sam Kastanis Case

Ann Tracy, Ph.D., Executive Director of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness, confirmed that this woman was in a two week withdrawal from Prozac and another antidepressant, trazadone,  at the time of the murder-suicide.

On the morning of November 17, 1991, Sam Kastanis placed a 911 call, telling police that his son was bleeding, his fingers chopped off. Arriving at the scene, police discovered Kastanis in the midst of a grisly scene: three children and Sam’s wife Margaret had been stabbed to death. Although Sam insisted he was innocent, he was arrested and brought to trial.   The evidence seemed overwhelming until Dr. Joseph Burton examined the bodies, and determined that based on the difference in wounds found on the children and the cuts on Margaret’s hand (seen left), the most likely scenario was that Margaret (who had a history of mental problems) had killed her children (injuring herself with the knife in the process) and then committed suicide by stabbing herself in the heart (she was the only one who did not have defensive wounds on her body).

Margaret Kastanis was also the only one with the blood of all three children on her (T-shirt seen right). As a result of Dr. Burton’s findings, Sam Kastanis was acquitted.

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Family Says Wife Of Kastanis Underwent Personality Change — (Deseret News)

By Deseret News  May 19, 1993, 12:00am MDT

Brian West, Staff Writer

While prosecutors continued to present evidence that Sam Kastanis killed his wife and three children, friends and family members gave compelling testimony Tuesday that his wife may have been the perpetrator.

The testimony came during the first day of a bond hearing to determine if Kastanis should be released from jail before his capital-murder trial begins June 14.Margaret Kastanis underwent a dramatic personality change during the last eight months of her life, her parents, sister and two neighbors testified. Margaret Kastanis was suicidal and talked of divorcing her husband because she felt she was an unfit mother and wife.

Margaret Kastanis’ downfall began when she befriended a neighbor who has multiple personalities, witnesses testified.

Pam Anderson, a friend and the Relief Society president in Kastanis’ LDS ward, discouraged Margaret Kastanis from getting involved with the neighbor because of the woman’s emotional problems. But before long, the two women got to be “very, very good friends,” Anderson said.

But Anderson said both women eventually discussed severing their relationship because they realized neither one was good for the other.

“That person had basically taken over her life at that point,” Marian Griffiths said of her sister. “She couldn’t make a move, she felt, without this person knowing.”

Eventually, Margaret Kastanis began acting paranoid and believed her house was being watched and her phone bugged.

“She was afraid of (the neighbor’s) multiple personalities and what those multiple personalities were capable of,” Anderson said. “She was afraid for her family’s life.”

Griffiths said her sister told her, ” `All I tried to do is help her, and how can this turn out so bad?’ and `I’m probably not going to make it through the end of the year.’ ”

The Kastanis family sold their house and planned to move because of the neighbor, Margaret Kastanis’ mother testified.

Margaret Kastanis talked with Anderson about committing suicide and discussed divorcing her husband because she felt inadequate as a mother and wife. “She said, `I love Sam, and he deserves better,’ ” Griffiths said.

“She wanted to be the best at church. She wanted to care for all her neighbors. She wanted to do it all” but couldn’t, Griffiths added.

The witnesses all said that throughout it all, Sam Kastanis remained loving and patient with her.

Frances Jenkins said she spoke with her daughter the night before she and her three children were killed. “I never heard a voice so flat. She said there’s nothing more to say and that’s it. That’s the only thing she said.”

Sam Kastanis said he was outside in an unattached garage the morning of Nov. 17, 1991, when his wife and three children were bludgeoned to death inside the house. He says his wife must have killed the children, then herself.

Jenkins said her daughter once woke her to tell her, ” `You may have to raise these children,’ and I said, `Margaret, they need their mother.’ ” Jenkins also told police that Margaret Kastanis said, “I can’t leave the kids with you, and I can’t leave the kids with Sam and I can’t go on.”

But Anderson said Margaret Kastanis once told her she didn’t know how her kids could survive without her or how she could survive without her children.

Blood-spatter expert Ron Englert testified Tuesday that he has conducted additional tests since the preliminary hearing in September and has gathered more evidence to support his theory that Kastanis killed the victims.

Englert has testified that bloody hand prints and blood spatters on the clothing of Sam Kastanis prove he is the person who administered the deadly stabbings and blows.

Third District Judge Dennis Frederick will decide whether Kastanis should be released from the jail on $125,000 bond until the trial on June 14. He was free for three months, but a judge revoked the bail following a preliminary hearing and sent him back to jail.

Defense attorney Ron Yengich appealed the ruling to the Utah Supreme Court, which ruled Kastanis should have had a bail hearing with an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. Now, however, attorneys fear bail hearings may become “minitrials.”