Daughter to be tried in man’s death —(Star-Telegram)

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Star-Telegram

By Anthony Spangler,Star-Telegram Staff Writer

July 3, 2005

ARLINGTON – It would be easier for Elsie Loudermilk to mourn her son’s brutal slaying if her granddaughter were not facing trial in his murder.

Loudermilk, 84, who lives in Arlington with her son’s widow, said her granddaughter, Laura L. Loudermilk, 23, has a long history of mental health problems.

“I still love Laura, but I don’t love what she’s done,” said the elder Loudermilk, who learned this week that state doctors declared her granddaughter competent to stand trial.

Laura Loudermilk is charged with murder in the Dec. 22 slaying of her father, Robert Loudermilk, 61, in the 200 block of Fleetwood Court in central Arlington. A trial date has not been set.

Police said she beat him to death with a bat, stabbed him several times and then called 911 to report the slaying.

Court records show a private doctor took her off medications nine days before her father was killed.

Police say there is no known motive in the slaying. Relatives believe that Loudermilk had a “psychotic break.”

“We don’t wish Laura to be in prison with hardened criminals,” said Linda Johnson, Robert Loudermilk’s sister. “We hope she gets the help she needs. We know Laura has never been quite right.”

District Judge Everett Young declared Loudermilk incompetent to stand trial April 1 after she exhibited “bizarre behavior” in jail, including loss of appetite, emotional outbursts and saying she was hearing voices, according to court records.

Loudermilk spent the past three months at North Texas State Hospital in Vernon. She received therapy, and doctors prescribed antidepressant and antipsychotic medications.

A competency report prepared by doctors at the maximum-security state mental hospital states that she is competent to stand trial but that she continues to suffer from schizoaffective disorder, which the National Mental Health Association defines as a combination of unipolar depression and manic-depressive illness.

Symptoms of the disorder include depression, sad feelings, fatigue, lack of interest in everyday activities, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. People with the illness also have recurrent thoughts of death and suicide, experience delusions and are prone to cheerfulness turning to irritability, paranoia and rage, according to the association.

The report states that Loudermilk “appeared to be experiencing emotional distress while recounting [the crime]. She stated that, at the time of her arrest, ‘I was upset … in shock.’ ”

The psychological reports show that her mental health issues date from early childhood.

During her treatment in Vernon, she told doctors that the voices, which she has heard since she was 15 or 16, are “mean … several adults, men and women, and sometimes I think it’s my aunt and my grandfather.” She said the voices say “hateful things, they call me names, tell me to do this and that, to hurt my family.”

Loudermilk began receiving outpatient psychiatric treatment in March 2004, and she was prescribed Prozac and Risperdal. Nine days before her father was killed, her doctor, who was not named in court documents, took her off antipsychotic medication with the intent to begin a different prescription.

Loudermilk’s attorney, Larry Moore, said he has not decided how his client’s mental health history will factor in her defense.

“It is obvious that Laura has a serious mental illness and a history of medical treatment,” he said. “When there isn’t a rational explanation for what happened, then that means the reason is irrational. That’s the issue at the heart of this case.”

Anthony Spangler, (817) 548-5412 aspangler@star-telegram.com