Defense rests in Underwood trial

Wednesday, March 5th 2008, 1:26 pm
By: News 9

Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Kevin Underwood's killing of a 10-year-old girl was fueled by deviant sexual disorders and a downward spiral of depression that began with the breakup of an online relationship, a psychiatrist testified Wednesday.

Dr. Martin Kafka, a clinical associate at Harvard Medical School, said Underwood suffers from a socially isolating personality disorder, a bipolar disorder and several sexual disorders.

Underwood, 28, has been convicted of first-degree murder for killing Jamie Rose Bolin as part of a cannibalistic fantasy. A jury has been hearing evidence to decide whether he should be sentenced to death or life in prison, with or without the possibility of parole.

Underwood's defense team rested its case Wednesday afternoon after hearing from the convicted killer's mother, Connie Underwood, who tearfully asked the jury to spare her son's life.

Connie Underwood said her son was a normal child who started to become socially withdrawn after beginning school in Purcell. She and other witnesses have testified Kevin Underwood was routinely bullied by other students.

"He was a very loving child, especially when he was younger," Connie Underwood said, at times fighting back tears. "The older he got, the less affectionate he got. He really didn't like to be hugged ... or touched at all."

Kafka spent several hours with Underwood in the McClain County Jail, reviewed interviews with friends and relatives and read his diaries and online journal.

"What came across in evaluating Kevin Underwood is his lifelong struggle to be normal and his complete inability to do that," Kafka said. "He just gave up on being normal."

Kafka said Underwood's sexual disorders included an attraction to children.

He said several of Underwood's entries into notebooks while he attended classes at the University of Sciences and Arts in Chickasha revealed his struggle to cope with depression.

He quoted from one entry from 1998 in which Underwood wrote "I know what they're thinking. They are laughing at me. All the cool kids think I'm a loser because I don't look like them, act like them, dress like them."

Despite an above-average IQ of 128, Underwood said he dropped out of school because of paralyzing social anxiety, Kafka said.

Under cross examination by district attorney Greg Mashburn, Kafka conceded Underwood would still be a threat if released into society.

"If he walked out of here today, yeah, he'd be a danger," Kafka said. "But we all know he's not walking out of here today."

Kafka said Underwood's psychological disorders are treatable with medication.

A second defense witness who testified Wednesday, Dr. Antoinnette McGarrahan, said tests she conducted on Underwood revealed he would be a minimal threat for continued violence either in prison or in society.

McGarrahan, who routinely tests violent inmates in the Texas prison system, said Underwood is not a psychopath and showed a low probability to commit further acts of violence.

On cross examination, McGarrahan said the test was based solely on statistical analysis of Underwood's answers and did not take into account Underwood's sexual disorders.

She also said some test results showed a probability that Underwood was intentionally exaggerating some of his symptoms.

"One of the reasons a person may exaggerate their symptoms is to escape punishment or get a lesser punishment," she said.

They have argued for the death penalty, citing the heinous nature of the crime and that he would pose a continuing threat.

Defense attorneys have not disputed that he killed the girl, but have argued against the death penalty, saying he is mentally disturbed and out of touch with reality.

The seven-man, five-woman jury is expected to begin deliberating Underwood's punishment on Friday after hearing from a final prosecution witness.

Visit our extended coverage page on Underwood's trial: Extended Coverage