Defense: Army private was sleepwalking during attack
WIESBADEN, Germany — In a case with a novel defense, defense and prosecution agree, by and large, on all but one crucial issue.
Why did Pvt. Charles Savage stab his German friend Kerstin Macri?
As the opening prosecution witness Wednesday, Macri testified the attack came out of nowhere last April 11 after she had allowed Savage to spend two nights on the couch in her Frankfurt apartment, even counseling him on his troubles with his unit.
During the two days Savage stayed with her, the soldier agonized whether to return to his unit, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, which Macri said Savage hated. After she thought he left the apartment, and after she fell asleep, Macri awoke to Savage stabbing her in the back.
His client suffers from parasomnia — Savage attacked Macri in his sleep, said his attorney, David Court, in opening remarks Wednesday in Wiesbaden, 1st AD headquarters.
Parasomniacs function in a state between consciousness and sleep, doing things they might not remember. Parasomnia includes night terrors and sleepwalking, according to testimony.
Prosecution attorneys contend Savage stabbed Macri with the intent to kill, and Savage is charged with one count of premeditated attempted murder. He pleaded guilty earlier to breaking restrictions and to being absent without leave from his Baumholder-based unit.
Whether Savage meant to kill Macri is the center issue of the court-martial.
Prosecutors called two doctors — including forensic pathologist Dr. Stefan Podosch — who testified that Macri had seven stab wounds across the top of her back from her upper left shoulder blade to the center of her back, down to her lower right shoulder blade. Four of the wounds were so closely grouped that they appeared to be one wound.
Court argued that had Savage wanted to kill Macri, he could have cut the sleeping woman’s throat with the knife, which had about a 2½-inch blade.
Moreover, Court pointed out that none of the life-threatening scenarios Podosch described, including internal bleeding, happened, with the exception of a collapsed lung.
Savage’s court-martial began Wednesday, and first-day testimony yielded the first public details of the case. Thursday’s testimony revolved around Savage’s proclivity for sleepwalking, his mental state, his behavior and his concerns about going back to Iraq.
Testifying for the defense, an expert in clinical neuropsychology testified that parasomnia was a likely diagnosis for Savage. After tests, interviews and conferring with other doctors, Savage’s attack “was not inconsistent with what I might predict,” said Lt. Col. Gary Southwell, chief of psychology services at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
Southwell conducted a sanity board, a psychological and psychiatric evaluation to determine Savage’s mental health. When Court asked Southwell if it was his diagnosis that Savage is suffering from parasomnia, Southwell replied, “a possible diagnosis.”
“How possible?” Court asked.
“The most probable diagnosis based on all the information I have,” Southwell said.
The prosecution was preparing to cross-examine Southwell at Stars and Stripes’ deadline. Defense presented several other witnesses, who testified seeing Savage sleepwalking.
Tabatha Eli, with whom Savage lived for four months in 2000 and 2001, testified that Savage sleepwalked, once doing the dishes while he slept.
Eli, who has a son, with Savage, also testified that their son has had sleepwalking episodes.
Prosecutor Capt. Laura Calese tried to neutralize Eli’s testimony by saying she was influenced by money from Savage’s parents. But Eli denied any quid pro quo, saying the money was a $7 money order.
“Are you going to commit perjury for $7?” Court asked. “No,” Eli said.
The government case seemed to hit a snag Thursday afternoon after prosecution witnesses expressed surprise that Savage could commit a violent crime.
“I could not picture him doing it,” said Tamara Philpot, whose husband, Michael, is friends with Savage. “That’s not how I knew him,” said Philpot said, whose husband, Michael, is friends with Savage.
Savage was “friendly … never violent at all, especially to women,” Tamara Philpot said.
Another friend, Bianca Majewski, testified that she once slapped Savage. When Court asked her what Savage did, Majewski replied, “Nothing.”
While both Majewski and Philpot testified that Savage was friendly and peaceful, they also testified that Savage’s behavior occasionally had seemed erratic, with overtones of paranoia. Savage thought he was being following and taped, Majewski testified.
But even after two days of testimony, no one could quite offer an explanation as to why Savage attacked Macri.
“You’ve had 10 months to think about this, and you still have no idea why he attacked you,” Court said to Macri during Wednesday’s testimony.
“No, no idea,” Macri replied. “And I think … I won’t know till the end of my life.”