Agent says VA suspect bipolar — (Fayetteville Observer)

Original article no longer available

Fayetteville Observer

December 20, 2005

RALEIGH — The Fayetteville man accused of killing a co-worker last week in the VA hospital pharmacy was being treated for bipolar disorder, an FBI agent testified in U.S. District Court on Monday.

Arthur James Charland, 42, is being held without bail on a charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Linda Faye Owens, with whom he had an 11-year affair.  Special Agent Chris Hedges testified that Charland told investigators after his arrest that he had taken prescription medication the morning of the Dec. 13 shooting. But he said he wasn’t under the drug’s influence during the interview. Hedges said Charland confessed to the killing during the interview.

Charland later told agents that he needed his prescription for Effexor when they asked him whether there was anything he wanted while he remained in custody, Hedges said.

“The doctor called him bipolar, but he doesn’t like to take the medication because of its side effects,” Hedges said.

The drug is an antidepressant used to treat bipolar disorder. Common side effects include anxiety, nervousness and dizziness.

The information about Charland’s mental condition came from cross examination by Sue Berry, Charland’s court-appointed lawyer. Berry also elicited testimony that Charland’s confession was not recorded.

The hearing was to determine whether the government had enough probable cause to hold Charland and prepare an indictment against him. It was his first court appearance since being charged. He waived his right to a detention hearing.

Charland, led into court handcuffed and wearing an orange jumpsuit, showed no emotion when U.S. Magistrate Judge E.S. Swearingen found in the government’s favor. The case is scheduled to go to a federal grand jury Jan. 4. The VA hospital is in federal jurisdiction.

Government’s case

Monday’s hearing lasted 22 minutes, and Hedges was the only witness. Prosecutors seldom present much evidence at such initial hearings, which gives the defense a glimpse of the government’s case.

In addition to Charland’s mental condition and the absence of a taped confession, Berry disclosed through testimony that there were no witnesses to the shooting.

“The defendant told us there was no one else inside the pharmacy except the deceased and the defendant himself,” Hodges said.

In response to questions by Assistant U.S. Attorney Wendy Daknis, Hedges recalled statements by Charland and by a VA police officer indicating Charland admitted to the crime.

“You might want to put me in handcuffs. I just shot somebody,” Hedges said, recalling what a VA policeman heard Charland say.

According to a criminal complaint, Charland concealed a shotgun inside Christmas wrapping paper and walked into the pharmacy to shoot Owens. He told interrogators it was premeditated.

Charland told investigators he and Owens had an affair that started in 1994 and continued after Owens was divorced last year. He told investigators the shooting was prompted by Owens’ desire to end their relationship.

Staff writer John Fuquay can be reached at fuquayj@fayettevillenc.com or (919) 828-7641.