Gotsch Trial Opens With Insanity Defense — (New Hampshire Union Leader)

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New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, NH)

October 9, 1996

Author: JERRY MILLER Union Leader Correspondent

[]BRENTWOOD — A Poughkeepsie, N.Y., man who confessed to killing his father in New Hampshire last July pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity yesterday. The trial of Gerald Gotsch, 38, began yesterday in Rockingham County Superior Court before Judge Kenneth McHugh. Gotsch is charged with second-degree murder.

Public defenders insist Gotsch suffered from severe depression and was psychotic at the time of the killing. Prosecutors from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office told the jury Gotsch was motivated by rage and knew exactly what he was doing when he choked his father and crushed his chest using the full weight of his knees.

In opening arguments, Assistant Attorney General Joe LaPlante told the jury Gotsch had not worked in more than five years, after being fired from a low-level position at IBM in Poughkeepsie.

The loss of his job and his unwillingness to actively seek full-time work, led Gotsch’s wife, Gail, to ask for a separation, said LaPlante.   Having nowhere else to go, Gotsch went to Londonderry to live with his brother and sister-in-law, John and Karen Gotsch.     After several months of living with Gerald Gotsch, the couple decided to take their two young daughters on a vacation away from him. His behavior was becoming increasingly strange, Karen Gotsch said.

Since Gotsch was taking medication for depression and was seeing counselors at a Manchester mental health clinic, the couple asked Johann Gotsch, the defendant’s father, to stay with him in Londonderry while the couple vacationed in North Carolina for a week.

According to Karen Gotsch, the father, who had recently suffered a mild stroke, reluctantly agreed to journey to New Hampshire, to stay with his son for the week.

LaPlante called the father, ”a stern man,” who Gerald Gotsch had come to resent.

Prosecutors contend that on the night of July 24, 1995, Gerald Gotsch’s depression worsened and he was unable to sleep.   At some point, using a knife, he poked at his own wrists as if he was going to slash them and kill himself. ”He killed that night, but he didn’t kill himself,” LaPlante told the jury.  According to the prosecutor, the father told his son to put down the knife or he would call the police. At that point, the son raised the knife, causing the older man to flee from the house in his pajamas.

LaPlante said the son pursued the father into the back yard and beat the older man to the ground. Gerald Gotsch choked his father for 10 to 15 minutes and, as the father was lying on the ground, Gotsch jumped on his chest, crushing the rib cage and numerous internal organs, LaPlante said.

The younger Gotsch then hid the body in a pile of leaves in the woods near the house and fled the state to Poughkeepsie, driving the dead man’s car.  After a two-day manhunt, Gotsch was captured by police in upstate New York. Authorities said he confessed to killing his father.

According to LaPlante, Johann Gotsch was killed because he refused to ”give in to the son’s latest cry for self-absorbed attention.”   Acknowledging Gerald Gotsch’s past bouts with depression, LaPlante said Gotsch ”used his depression as a tool, to get what he wanted…sympathy and constant attention.”

LaPlante insisted Gotsch’s separation from his wife turned into anger and later resentment, which eventually exploded, leading to the father’s death.  Insisting Gotsch loved his father, Public Defender Andrew Schulman said of his client, ”He committed a homicide, absolutely,” but said Gotsch’s mental illness negates his criminal responsibility.

To establish in the jury’s minds the evidence of the defendant’s insanity, Public Defender Joseph Malfitani said Gotsch and his deceased mother both suffered from severe mental illness.

Copyright 1996, 2002 Union Leader Corp.
Record Number:  0F54511C7471A42A