Man won’t stand trial for slaying, Expert says man should be confined to an institution — (Charleston Daily Mail)

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Charleston Daily Mail (WV)

May 30, 2000


A psychologist has said that a Sissonville man accused of stabbing a taxi driver to death last summer is not responsible for the crime by reason of insanity.  Ronald Daniel Asbury, 41, will not have to stand trial for the murder of taxi driver Larry Ray Adkins of Dunbar, his defense and the prosecution agreed.

Authorities say Adkins picked up Asbury on the night of June 6, 1999, and was heading south on 10th Street in Dunbar when Asbury lunged from the back seat and attacked Adkins with a knife, delivering a fatal wound to the victim’s heart.

Adkins loudly honked the cab’s horn as he coasted through an intersection and crashed into a fire hydrant near the Dunbar Bridge, police said. He then stumbled out of his car and died.

Dr. Ralph Smith testified before Kanawha Circuit Judge Irene Berger this morning and detailed findings from several evaluations of Asbury. Smith, relying on interviews with the defendant, Asbury’s medical history and witness interviews, said that while Asbury was competent to stand trial, he could not be held criminally responsible for his actions.

In his report, though, Smith made clear that Asbury “should never be released” from a secure mental health facility.

Asbury, who has suffered with Crohn’s disease throughout his life, has long been heavily medicated for his physical ailments.

Early on, though, Asbury also was diagnosed with psychological problems and treated with antidepressant medication, Smith reported.

Smith told Berger that the most telling indicator of Asbury’s “grandiose and delusional” psychosis, was that at the time of his arrest he claimed to be affiliated with the FBI and reportedly told witnesses that he thought the cab driver was trying to kill his family.

“He was hollering, ‘Nobody loves me,'” Smith said.

Smith indicated that Asbury’s alleged attack on the 55-year-old taxi driver was brought on by severe paranoia and delusions that were aggravated by alcohol abuse.

“It’s unlikely he can ever function outside of an institutional setting,” Smith testified.

Assistant prosecutor Kirk Brandfass and defense attorney Theresa Chisolm agreed on almost all the facts surrounding the attack and on Asbury’s mental condition, but differed widely on what the appropriate punishment for his crime should be.

Both sides agreed to let Berger decide what crime Asbury would have been guilty of if he could be held responsible for his actions and if he were convicted. Depending on what crime Berger decides would have applied under normal circumstances, Asbury could spend between a few years and life in prison.

Brandfass argued that Asbury would have been guilty of second-degree murder – that is, acting without premeditation but with malicious intent to kill.

Chisolm, on the other hand, told Berger her client was guilty of only involuntary manslaughter because of his diminished mental capacity at the time.

Brandfass cited the “savagery” of Asbury’s alleged crime and made much of the fact that as the taxi driver lay dying on the sidewalk, Asbury was said to have repeatedly tried to further attack him, even kicking him. Brandfass also pointed out that Adkins, a 20-year employee of C&H Taxi, had done nothing to provoke the attack.

“He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person in his taxicab,” Brandfass said, calling the random nature of the crime “horrendously disturbing.”

Chisolm’s argument was based on Asbury’s state of mind.

“If he’s doing it because he believes it’s necessary to defend his family, whether that’s true or not, if that’s his belief, then there’s no malicious intent,” she said.

Berger said she would take their arguments under advisement and return a decision by the end of the week.

Writer Chris Stirewalt can be reached at 348-4824 or by e-mail at    Record Number:  0FE89A35D20D0564