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Bristol Herald Courier
By Andre Teague, Claire Galofaro
Published: October 14, 2010
Randy Graybeal takes the stand Wednesday in Blountville, Tenn.
BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. – Six days before he shot his wife then blew off his own face with a 12-gauge shotgun, Randy Keith Graybeal refilled his prescription for 50-milligram tablets of Prestiq, an antidepressant.
Three months earlier, not a year into his marriage, his wife started sleeping in a different bedroom. He suspected she was up to something, he told a doctor who testified Wednesday at his trial on murder charges. He caught her “in all kinds of lies” and discovered things he thought she should have told him.
Graybeal is standing trial, for the second time, in the shooting death of his fourth wife, Angela Dawn Graybeal. She was shot dead in their home Oct. 28, 2008, not six months after they bought 15 acres of land and started digging the foundation for a new home and their new life together.
“I just lost it,” Graybeal murmured Wednesday out of the nickle-sized hole that is all he has left of a mouth.
Four months ago, a jury was charged not with determining his guilt – he admits that he killed her. They were to decide whether he did so with premeditation and a clear head, both requirements for a first-degree murder conviction. Four days deep in testimony and deliberations, the jury could not reach a unanimous vote and the judge declared a mistrial.
The defense attorney, Richard Spivey, argues that Graybeal’s adulterous wife provoked him into a blind rage. It was a crime of passion, which falls far lower on the hierarchy of homicide crimes.
Drinking water through a straw Wednesday, the third day of his second trial, Graybeal said he filed for divorce in July. Sometime after, his wife overdosed on Valium and went to a Johnson City mental health hospital where she met a man named Paul Ditrapani. They became lovers.
Ditrapani testified at the first trial, but attorneys couldn’t track him down for the second. The court played his brief testimony for the jury, in which he admitted to the affair with Angela Graybeal. He said the pair lived together until a week before she died.
The August before the shooting, a doctor diagnosed Randy Graybeal with an adjustment disorder, which is, according to the National Institutes of Health, an emotional and behavioral reaction to stress. Soon after, Angela Graybeal moved to a new home in Hampton, Tenn., despite his desire for her to come home.
Randy Graybeal testified Wednesday that he went to her Hampton home a few days before he shot her. She’d called him and he found out later that she only wanted his money.
Graybeal is described by prosecutors as a suspicious and jealous man, who installed a surveillance camera aimed at his own house and often sat a quarter mile away on his neighbor’s front porch, waiting with binoculars for his wife to come by and steal from him.
They offered his obsession as a possible motive. He’d stated to psychologists that of his four wives, only one really loved him. The rest, including Angela Graybeal, used him for money and divorcing them was expensive. With Angela Graybeal’s name on the deed of their 15 acres of new property, prosecutors argued, he worried she’d try to take it.
Still, in late October, he took Angela Graybeal to the store to fill a prescription for Valium, paid off her back truck payments, and then the pair went to the house they had shared on Timber Ridge Road in Bluff City. Things were going fine for awhile, he said. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she came out of the bathroom with her pants down. She showed him evidence of an intimate act with her lover, he said, then provoked him with “look what Paul and I did.”
“I don’t know how to explain it,” he said Wednesday. “I was broken-hearted and hurt, I guess.”
Somehow and for an unexplained reason, Angela Graybeal got a knife from the kitchen and waived it at him. He wrestled it from her, though Tuesday the medical examiner testified that only the wife had defensive wounds.
Then he went into his bedroom, got a 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun – that he’d bought as a gift for Angela Graybeal’s son – disengaged the safety, came back into the main room of the house and shot her while she laid on the ground, 15 feet away from the fallen knife and already covered in bruises.
“He described himself as simply overwhelmed,” testified forensic psychologist Thomas Schacht, an East Tennessee State University professor hired by the defense to comment on Graybeal’s mental state at the time of the shooting. “The description of the shooting was that he became overwhelmed and found himself running, in the subjective sense, as fast as he’s ever run in his life to get the shotgun with the intention of shooting Angela and killing himself.”
Schacht, who also testified at Graybeal’s initial trail, has become the case’s most contentious witness. He said Wednesday that he acquired both husband and wife’s mental health records and talked to the medical examiner and several physicians who treated Randy Graybeal. He met with the defendant four times, interviewed his family, then re-diagnosed his mental illness at the time of the shooting.
The doctor who treated Graybeal in May determined he had an adjustment disorder. Schacht looked at his records, though never spoke with the doctor, and determined that Graybeal was rather suffering from a major depression, in which “reasoning abilities are impaired.”
Eleven weeks before he shot his wife, Graybeal went to the doctor weighing 148 pounds. His normal weight was 175. He had a “wooded facial expression” and a difficult time making eye contact. He couldn’t sleep, which the prosecution pointed out was a life-long problem for Graybeal. He’d lost his appetite and his ambition to work. Nothing pleased him.
These, Schacht testified, are signs of a major depressive episode.
“It’s a very potent, emotionally provocative and stressful kind of statement,” he said of Angela Graybeal’s boasting of her lover. “And he was, at the time, incompletely treated for his depression, which means, among other things, that his vulnerability to stressors is heightened.”
In short, Schacht testified, Graybeal was too depressed at the time of the shooting to be capable of premeditated murder. It was, rather, a “cascade of emotional reaction.”
Prosecutors argued, though, that by the time he visited his doctor a second time, three weeks later, he was up to 152 pounds. And by the time he reached the hospital after shooting himself, he was up to 166 pounds.
Bickering between attorneys escalated throughout the day and came to a head as the doctor spoke: “Judge, that’s just inappropriate,” one prosecutor exclaimed. “I’m a man, I’m not going to take much more of that!” Spivey later contended.
“You’re not helping your clients, the parties you represent by some of the things that you’re doing and saying in court. Both of you,” Judge Robert Montgomery chided them, and sent the jury out to veil them from the legal maneuvering.
But the trial went on, as a rehearsal for what the prosecutors would argue if the judge would let the jury hear it.
The attorneys said Schacht cherry picked which of Graybeal’s acquaintances to interview, and therefore can’t be trusted to paint an accurate portrait of the man. He ignored Olin Morris, who’d spoken to Graybeal daily throughout that summer and fall. He didn’t bother with Angela Graybeal’s son, who told an earlier court that he watched as his stepfather broke his mother’s hand. Nor did he concern himself with Graybeal’s litany of former wives and girlfriends, who testified at earlier hearings that Graybeal was possessive, abused them and threatened to shoot himself, at least one time in front of their children.
This, Schacht said, was irrelevant. He was charged with determining Graybeal’s mental status at the time of the shooting and not to establish any personality disorder or a behavioral pattern.
Montgomery already ruled that the testimony of former wives and girlfriends would be too prejudicial and he will not allow it. Spivey argued that allowing prosecutors to jab Schacht about those very things is a backhanded attempt to admit inadmissible evidence.
Just one piece of all this seemed to trouble Judge Montgomery. Schacht testified that Graybeal said he had never before been suicidal. The words of his former lovers contradict that, the judge noted. His concern was whether Schacht could have made an honest determination about Graybeal’s mental status had Graybeal not been honest with him in first place.
Montgomery said he will announce his decision of what testimony can be heard by the jury when the trail resumes at 8:30 a.m. today.
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UPDATE: Graybeal convicted of voluntary manslaughter — (Bristol Herald Courier)
Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2010 2:08 pm
BREAKING NEWS: Just after 5 p.m. today, a jury found Randy Keith Graybeal guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his wife, Angela.
Graybeal had been charged with first-degree murder in the October 2008 shooting.