Disturbed and desperate, David Tarloff set out with a bag full of knives and a plan he thought had God's blessing: Stick up a psychiatrist for $40,000, grab his mother out of a nursing home and escape with her to Hawaii, authorities and doctors say.
His odd plot became a bloodbath in an Upper East Side office in 2008. Tarloff slashed a therapist to death with a meat cleaver after she confronted him.
Five years later, Tarloff is set to go on trial this week in a case that points to the uncertainties of prosecuting people with major psychiatric illnesses. The case has stalled for years at a time because of the schizophrenic Tarloff's mental state, which halted an attempt to try him in 2010.
If the trial goes forward, jurors will be asked to decide whether Tarloff, now 44, who has a decades-long history of hospitalizations and hallucinations about God and Satan speaking to him, knew he was doing wrong when he killed psychologist Kathryn Faughey.
They had never met.
He has variously said he was frightened that she was going to attack him -- her long fingernails alarmed him, he said -- and that he mistrusted her because she shared an office with the doctor he'd targeted for the robbery, the one who had first committed Tarloff to a mental hospital 17 years before.
"Believe me, I wish she was never there -- but I thought she was evil," Tarloff told a psychologist in 2010. "I went to kill her. I thought I had no choice." Tarloff's lawyers don't dispute that he killed Faughey. But they argue he was so psychotic that he shouldn't be held criminally responsible for her death.
"Everything about his thought process was so bizarre -- so crazy -- that the proof in the case shows he was legally insane," lawyer Bryan Konoski has said.
But prosecutors and Faughey's family feel that, whatever Tarloff's illness, his actions bespoke a considered, violent scheme.
"He planned this out" and was heavily armed, said Owen Faughey, one of her brothers. "He was determined, it would seem, to stop anyone who would interfere with his plan. And, unfortunately, that's where our sister fell victim to his plan . . . He should be held fully accountable."
It was an accident that Tarloff and Faughey, a 56-year-old therapist who specialized in helping people with relationships, met at all. Faughey shared an office with psychiatrist Dr. Kent Shinbach, who treated Tarloff in 1991 but hadn't seen him since.