Man Found Not Guilty in Two Stabbings — (Daily News Tribune)

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Newton Daily News Tribune

by Kerri Roche

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Court says he had symptoms of mental illness at time of incident

Newton – A former Newton resident charged with stabbing his neighbors in front of their daughter in 2005 was found not guilty by reason of insanity in Middlesex Superior Court yesterday.

Daniel Westbrook, formerly of 25 Cheney St, was charged with home invasion and two counts of armed assault with intent to murder when he was arrested.

With nearly 25 years of practicing law, Westbrook’s attorney, Arthur L. Kelly, said the “not guilty by reason of insanity” verdict is very rare.  Mr. Westbrook at the time of the incident was experiencing symptoms of mental illness.

Prosecutors charged Westbrook with entering Claudia and Jin Chung’s unlocked kitchen at 21 Cheney St on Dec 29, 2005.  As the family was sitting down to dinner, Westbrook cut Claudia Chung’s throat with a knife.   Westbrook also cut Jin Chung’s throat, who was shielding himself from Westbrook, said prosecutors.

The couple’s 19-year-old daughter witnessed the incident but was not injured.  Appearing before Judge Linda Giles, Kelly and Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Lynch agreed that Westbrook should not be sent back to Bridgewater State hospital for treatment.

“They will determine over the weeks or months or years to follow whether he will be able to return to society”, said Kelly of the psychiatric staff of the facility.

Because of an agreement between the commonwealth and defense, the trial began and ended yesterday, said Kelly.  “There were really no issues in dispute, and that’s why is was so short”, he said.

Although his client has been found not responsible and therefore not guilty for his actions that day, it does not erase what happened, said Kelly.

“What’s tragic is these (people) were neighbours for a long time and there were never any issues.  Unfortunately, mental illness sometimes presents itself in a way that no one can predict.  Does he have an understanding (of his actions) now?  I would say yes that he does.  He might have a better understanding as to why”, said Kelly.

The Chungs eventually recovered physically from the incident after undergoing surgery.

After a 6-hour manhunt following the attack, Westbrook was arrested when police found him walking near mechanic and Cheney streets.

At the time of the attack, Westbrook had stopped taking Zoloft and Zyprexa, two medications prescribed for schizophrenia and depression, and had a history of psychiatric problems, his parents previously said. 

After his arraignment, he was sent to Bridgewater State hospital to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, where he has remained ever since, said Kelly.

Following a careful review and examination of his history, three doctors hired separately by the prosecution, defense and Bridgewater State hospital agreed that he could not be held responsible for his actions that day, said Kelly.    After his arrest, Westbrook was determined to be a paranoid schizophrenic, who could not decipher the “moral wrongfulness of his behavior”, Kelly said.

Since the incident, a listing for the Westbrook and Chung families cannot be found on Cheney St.   Westbrook was 20 years old at the time of the attack.

Kerri Roche can be reached at Kroche@cnc.com or 781-789-8009.