Original article no longer available
The Westchester County Journal News
February 23, 2007
Author: Bruce Golding
A psychiatrist who was scheduled to treat Steven Lessard broke the appointment without notice hours before Lessard began the prolonged murder-suicide that wiped out his family, the killer’s mother said.
Helen Beach said yesterday that her son showed up for a second meeting with the psychiatrist Feb. 15 but was told he wasn’t there.
“If the doctor had been there … perhaps he could have detected something and stopped this tragedy,” Beach, 78, said by telephone from her Florida home. “I feel very bad about it. The doctor could have stopped it.”
Beach said her son was referred to the psychiatrist by his family physician after complaining of depression that he couldn’t shake. Beach said she learned about the broken appointment during a telephone conversation with her son’s wife, Kathy Lessard, later that same day, when the region was blanketed with snow and ice from a storm the day before.
State police said they think Lessard, 51, strangled his 48-year-old wife inside their Lake Peekskill home either late Feb. 15 or early Feb. 16. Lessard strangled the couple’s 14-year-old daughter, Linda, sometime after she returned from school Friday, then fatally stabbed himself sometime after about 3 p.m. Saturday, when he was seen by a neighbor, police have said.
On Wednesday, police identified Dr. L. Mark Russakoff as Lessard’s psychiatrist.
Russakoff, director of psychiatry at Phelps Memorial Hospital Center in Sleepy Hollow, did not return a message left for him yesterday.
A Phelps spokeswoman said a “lot” of the information relayed to the newspaper was inaccurate, but she would not elaborate, citing confidentiality rules.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you what’s right and what’s wrong,” spokeswoman Mary Sernatinger said.
Capt. Keith Corlett of the state police would neither confirm nor deny the events described by Lessard’s mother. But he said Russakoff declined to discuss Lessard with investigators.
“We made the attempt, and he basically told us that we’d have to subpoena his records,” Corlett said.
Lessard, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who worked at the Indian Point nuclear power plants in Buchanan, was put on paid leave Feb. 8 after colleagues reported that he began acting strangely after one of his car’s tires went flat.
Corlett said police had not yet identified the pills in one of two bottles of medicine found in the Lessard home after the killings. But he said it was possible that the drugs were “as innocuous as Excedrin in the wrong bottle.”
The second bottle held 12 tablets of the prescription sleep aid Ambien, Corlett said. Lessard’s family doctor prescribed him 15 tablets, which he obtained from a pharmacy Feb. 7, Corlett said.
Ambien has been linked to numerous instances of trance-like behavior in which users have walked, cooked, eaten and driven in their sleep. It carries warnings that uncommon side effects include hallucinations and suicidal thoughts and that the frequency of those side effects was tied to factors including the use of other drugs.
Lessard’s mother said she thought her son had been taking antidepressants and possibly an herbal remedy recommended by his wife, who she said didn’t believe in antidepressants .
The results of toxicology tests on Lessard’s body aren’t expected for at least six weeks.
Reach Bruce Golding at 914-694-5012 or email@example.com.
Join the discussion on the murder-suicide in the “Open forum” at LoHud.com.
Copyright (c) The Journal News. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Gannett Co., Inc. by NewsBank, inc.
Original article no longer available