Husband testifies he can't recall killing his wife

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Richard W. Flewellen testified yesterday that he did not remember actually beating to death his wife with a ball-peen hammer last year.

In his non-jury trial on homicide and related charges, Mr. Flewellen testified in his own defense that he had visions of himself colored in blue and heard voices telling him to fight in the days preceding the Oct. 9, 2004, death of his wife, Celia Flewellen.

His testimony came on the last day of his trial. Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning said he will render verdicts in the case at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.

In addition to homicide, Mr. Flewellen is charged with arson and risking a catastrophe. Because the suspect did not deny the killing, Judge Manning will decide the degree of homicide.

After his wife was slain, Mr. Flewellen said he regained his senses as he sat on the bed, Mrs. Flewellen's body at his feet.

"I've lost it. I've lost everything," he said he remembered telling himself.

He drove his two daughters to his parents' East Liberty home. He then returned home and set fires where he said he intended to die with his wife.

"The fire, I'm not proud to say, scared me," he testified.

Instead of perishing in the fire, he drove again to the East End and tried to get help at his church, Mount Ararat Baptist in Larimer. He found the doors locked, so he sat in his van and drank anti-freeze and windshield washer until he passed out.

When he awakened, he said he thought he was in heaven. The white light he saw was the glare of the emergency room at West Penn Hospital.

Under police questioning at the hospital, Mr. Flewellen, a Port Authority bus driver and an award-winning amateur bodybuilder, said that he had been asleep for about two hours when his wife woke him up at about 5:30 a.m. to say that she wanted a divorce.

Celia Flewellen, who was principal at Homewood Montessori School, was about to get dressed for an appointment, Mr. Flewellen testified, when he approached her from behind and began beating her with the hammer.

Though she collapsed, she still was moaning. So, he said, he stabbed her, using two steak knives, one of which broke with the blade lodged in her body.

The hospital bed confession differs from his testimony, he said, because in the beginning he did not want his children to be questioned or to have to testify.

His 13-year-old daughter testified this week that she and her younger sister heard the commotion in their parents' attic bedroom.

Yesterday, Mr. Flewellen testified that his wife attacked him after he accused her of having a homosexual lover. She kicked him and punched him in the eye while he still was in bed.

He grabbed the hammer, which he kept beside the bed, and used it in self-defense. He testified that he did not remember actually striking her with the tool.

A psychiatrist, called by Mr. Flewellen's defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Christopher A. Patarini, testified Tuesday that the suspect suffered from depression and psychosis that rendered him incapable of forming the specific intent to kill his wife.

Proof of such intent is necessary to convict on a charge of first-degree murder, which calls for a mandatory term of life in prison.

Dr. Bruce Wright, called by Assistant District Attorney Bruce R. Beemer to refute the defense psychiatrist, agreed that Mr. Flewellen suffered from depression.

Dr. Wright, however, disagreed with the defense conclusion.

"There's no reliable evidence to suggest that he was unable to formulate the specific intent to kill," Dr. Wright testified.


Jim McKinnon can be reached at jmckinnon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1939.


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