Jury rejects PTSD defense in Army veteran's murder trial
By Matt Hamilton | Los Angeles Times | Published: August 10, 2013
LOS ANGELES — Eileen Garnreiter wanted to break up with her boyfriend.
She complained to her family that he was controlling. She had doubts he'd be able to provide for her and their 5-week-old daughter. She griped that he made her iron his socks and scolded her if he didn't like what she was wearing in public.
By Jan. 7, 2011, she'd had enough. She canceled plans to go to a Lakers game with a friend to tell her boyfriend that their relationship was over.
Hours later, the 22-year-old lay dead on the kitchen floor of the couple's Lawndale apartment, with a black eye and 16 stab wounds — three to the neck.
On Friday, a Torrance jury convicted her boyfriend, Tymarc Warren, of murder.
Warren, who served two tours of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Army, blamed the killing on post-traumatic stress disorder — a contention the jury didn't buy.
Moments before the verdict was read aloud, more than two dozen of Garnreiter's family and friends crowded into the fifth-floor courtroom, clutching photos of her and wiping tears.
"I was praying that the jury saw the same thing we've known all along," said Garnreiter's mother, Yesenia Nash. "This was a case of domestic violence."
Warren faces 26 years to life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 25.
At trial, Warren, 28, told jurors that after returning from Iraq in 2005, he suffered from nightmares and found large crowds a source of anxiety. His attorney, Louisa Pensanti, said her client was scarred by what he witnessed in Iraq, especially a roadside bomb that exploded near his convoy.
A defense expert testified that Warren, who entered the Army at 17 after graduating from Leuzinger High School, suffered from complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
But a psychiatrist hired by prosecutors disagreed and said Warren's military service was actually one of the more positive experiences in his life.
In closing arguments, Deputy Dist. Atty. Frank Dunnick noted that Warren passed two post-deployment mental health evaluations and called the strategy of invoking military service to escape a murder conviction offensive.
For Garnreiter's family and friends, who sat in the first two rows of the courtroom every day of the more than two-week trial, Warren's defense was difficult to bear.
"It's an insult to our men and women in the armed forces," said Cathy Johnson, 58, a family friend who runs a foundation in Garnreiter's honor that works to prevent domestic violence.
According to Warren's testimony, he and Garnreiter had an argument shortly after midnight Jan. 8, 2011. He said she shoved him while he was holding their infant daughter.
He put Garnreiter in a chokehold to calm her down, he said, but she reached for a kitchen knife.
Warren said he was acting on instinct. He said he "didn't know" who the victim was and felt threatened when Garnreiter reached for the knife.
After a brief struggle, the serrated knife entered Garnreiter's neck once and her grip on the knife slackened, Warren said. He said he couldn't recall the specifics of how it happened. After that, he said, he stabbed her twice more in the neck.
Dunnick told jurors it was Garnreiter, held in a chokehold by her boyfriend, who was acting in self-defense.
"There are things he chooses to remember and things he doesn't, and the things that he chooses to remember benefit his defense," Dunnick said.
Outside the Torrance courthouse, Garnreiter's family hugged before visiting her grave in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Garnreiter's aunt Brenda Chavez, 40, traveled from San Antonio to attend the trial.
Waiting more than two days for the verdict, Chavez said, was agonizing. "I was sick to my stomach," she said. But the jury's decision, she said, was a relief.
"In 21/2 years," Chavez said, "that was the first time we really breathed."