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AUBURN — Eric Griffey said he didn’t know why he pulled a steak knife on his fiancee on July 19, punched her, slammed her head against the kitchen floor and countertop, chased her outside their home and stabbed her repeatedly.
The 45-year-old local man charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, threatening with a dangerous weapon and domestic violence assault took the witness stand on the third and final day of testimony at his trial Wednesday in Androscoggin County Superior Court.
He has pleaded not criminally responsible by reason of insanity.
Defense attorney James Howaniec and, later, Deputy District Attorney James Andrews walked Griffey through his movements that evening, step by step, seeking an explanation for his violent behavior.
Griffey said he and then-girlfriend Kellie Cardona had begun to argue when she returned home from work. Griffey had accused her of infidelity with the baseball coach of her older son. The argument escalated, then Griffey grabbed her arm, causing a long bruise. She told him he hurt her, then retreated to their 5-year-old son’s room.
Griffey said Wednesday that he grabbed her the way he had seen the baseball coach grab her arm. Griffey had disputed her contention that he had hurt her, but conceded Wednesday he caused her injury.
When the couple later emerged from their son’s room, Griffey hit Cardona, cutting her eye, he said.
Asked why he had struck her, he said he didn’t know.
He would repeat that answer to a series of questions about his actions that evening, including grabbing Cardona’s hair, banging her head against the kitchen floor and counter, picking up a steak knife, putting it to her throat, following her into the bathroom where she tried to wash the blood from her face and, finally, chasing her outside and jumping on her, where he stabbed her in the legs and side.
Griffey said he didn’t remember saying anything during that time. He remembered hearing nothing.
He did recall seeing bits of the evening’s events but didn’t remember thinking or feeling anything at the time.
Asked whether he intended to kill Cardona when he was stabbing her, Griffey said: “I don’t know.”
He said he remembered the knife poised above Cardona’s belly as she was lying on the ground. He heard her say: “No.”
“Our eyes locked and I stopped right then and there,” he said.
“I said, ‘I’m so sorry,’” Griffey said he told her.
His perspective changed at that moment, he said. A rush of street sounds filled his ears.
When Cardona had said: “No,” Griffey said, “I immediately assessed everything.”
He testified that, “I must have been trying to hurt her and I was horrified.”
He turned the knife on himself then and tried to cut his throat, he said.
“I just wanted to die,” he said.
He had cut his arm and a finger before a neighbor wrested the knife from his hand.
“I had no intention of hurting anyone but myself” when the knife was taken from him, Griffey said.
On cross-examination by Andrews, Griffey said he had been angry before the violence started.
“Were you angry when you grabbed her hair?” Andrews asked.
“I don’t know,” Griffey said.
An earlier witness said she heard Griffey yell: “I’m gonna kill you, b—-!”
Asked whether he remembered saying that, Griffey said he didn’t know.
Asked whether he stabbed her, Griffey repeated that he didn’t know.
Andrews asked whether he remembers banging Cardona’s head on the kitchen counter, Griffey said, “I don’t see myself banging her head on anything.”
Regarding Cardona’s stab wounds, Griffey said: “I assume those injuries occurred during this incident.”
Griffey must show by a preponderance of evidence that, at the time of his criminal conduct, he lacked “substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness” of that conduct as a result of mental disease or defect, according to state law.
A clinical psychologist at Bates College who contracts with the state to conduct forensic psychological evaluations testified Wednesday that he reviewed police reports, interviewed Griffey twice and administered tests to him.
Luke Douglass said testing revealed Griffey suffered from anxiety. He appeared to be very depressed, Douglass said.
Circumstances on July 19, including moving into a new home and the sale of a family building had worsened Griffey’s anxiety and depression as well as his obsessive-compulsive disorder, Douglass said.
Andrews asked whether those disorders rose to the level of a major mental illness or psychosis that evening.
Douglass said he didn’t see any evidence of a severe disability. He said Griffey had not experienced visual hallucinations nor had he been delusional. He was aware of where he was and whom he was attacking. His actions were goal-oriented and he was able to make decisions, Douglass said.
Griffey’s jealousy didn’t rise to the level of delusion, Douglass said. He called it obsessional jealousy, meaning Griffey could be reasoned with and didn’t have a fixed idea about his jealous thoughts that weren’t open to rational thought.
Griffey had been treated for anxiety and depression with Zoloft rather than an antipsychotic medication, which is used to treat delusional jealousy and other major mental illnesses, Douglass said.
Several times during the period when Griffey’s behavior was violent, he displayed rational thinking when he worried about neighbors or police hearing what was transpiring in the home. He responded to Cardona’s references to their 5-year-old son, who was at home, by making a decision and changing his behavior, Douglass said.
When Griffey grabbed a knife to threaten Cardona, he knew it was a dangerous weapon, Douglass said.
When Griffey mixed alcohol with Zoloft, he didn’t lose his ability to control his actions, Douglass said.
Griffey “was able to sort of appreciate what was happening around him and make decisions,” Douglass said.
He said Griffeys’ statement that he isn’t going to “do 12 years” for his violent actions suggested he knew what he had done was wrong, Douglass said.
On Tuesday, a psychologist testifying for the defense said Griffey had suffered from delusional jealousy on July 19. He said Griffey had developed a “very compromised ability to integrate thoughts, feelings and behavior” when, combined with other behavioral and environmental factors, rose to the level of an abnormal condition of mind. Griffey’s obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression met the definition of mental disease or defect, psychologist Charles Robinson said.
Douglass said only a jury can decide whether Griffey had an abnormal condition of mind the evening of July 19.
The jury is likely to start deliberations Thursday after attorneys deliver their closing arguments.