Albert Green sat alone in the jury box in a Gretna courtroom Wednesday, listening calmly as two forensic psychologists testified about his mental state during a string of evaluations over the past two years.
Now on a regimen of Klonopin, Cogentin and Abilify, the 51-year-old’s serene demeanor and trimmed, gray-flecked beard had him looking the part of relatives’ description of him as a “gentle giant.”
But three years ago, in the leasing office of the Cascades Apartments in Metairie, Green was a different man.
Green, who had been in and out of psychiatric treatment for decades and was off his medication, had been sleeping in the stairwell of the North Arnoult Road complex.
He was convinced the apartments’ affable, 61-year-old manager known as “Mr. Charlie” had been putting snakes in the sofa on which he had been sleeping and that the snakes had entered his body and tormented him daily.
Green entered Charles Dilapi’s office about 9:30 a.m. that Sept. 8, 2011, and, after an argument, stabbed Dilapi 26 times, killing him.
Mark Colwart, the complex’s maintenance man, rushed into the room and witnessed the killing. Green stabbed him once before stealing a pickup truck and escaping. Authorities found Green six hours later at a fast-food restaurant in Hammond.
He has been in the Jefferson Parish lockup ever since, awaiting the day he could be found competent to stand trial for second-degree murder, aggravated assault, theft and aggravated criminal damage.
That day came Wednesday, when prosecutors with District Attorney Paul Connick’s office and Green’s court-appointed attorney asked 24th Judicial District Court Judge Stephen Grefer to waive a jury trial in favor of a ruling from the bench.
After about an hour of testimony and a review of the evidence, Grefer found Green not guilty by reason of insanity. He will be sent to the Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System’s forensic division in Jackson, where he will be held until it is determined he can be safely released.
Only two doctors were called to testify. Both told the court that Green was actively psychotic on the day of the attack and didn’t know right from wrong.
They said it wasn’t until earlier this year that Green, who they said is likely a paranoid schizophrenic, reached the point in his treatment that he could understand the proceedings.
Dr. Rafael Salcedo and Dr. Harminder Mallik both noted that in addition to Green’s delusions about snakes, he also told investigators after the crime that he had won millions in the lottery and had given Dilapi much of that money and several cars, including the truck that he drove away from the scene after the killing.
Salcedo said some of Green’s delusions, which included a belief that Dilapi had raped his mother, have faded with time and treatment, but that his belief that his body is infested with snakes has persisted.
Mallik said Green’s delusions about snakes go back to when he was 13, when he says a woman he alternately describes as a girlfriend and a prostitute used voodoo to put a king cobra into his body.
Salcedo testified that because Green’s history of mental illness long preceded the date of the killing, there is no reason to suspect he is faking his illness. Psychologists are trained to spot malingerers, and Green’s descriptions of his delusions and flights into nonsensical speech, including made-up words, are extremely difficult to feign, he said.
Salcedo testified that while paranoid schizophrenics are statistically no more likely to be violent than the overall population, Green’s violent actions in 2011 and his history of going off his medication indicate he is part of the subset that is a threat to himself and others.
Mallik testified that Green still views his actions that day as reasonable. That fact, and his clear inability to understand the seriousness of the killing, are reasons to believe that he could hurt someone again.
“That in itself speaks to how dangerous this individual can be,” he said.
After reviewing the exhibits submitted by the attorneys, Grefer announced the verdict, noting the hospital must give the court six months’ advance notice if it ever intends to release Green.
As the court’s attention turned to the next order of business, Green turned his head to the gallery and mouthed the words “I love you” to family members watching from the corner.
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