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Judge commits Great Neck woman to psychiatric institution after fatal stabbing, says she was not criminally responsible

Faye Doomchin leaves Nassau police headquarters Aug. 14,

Faye Doomchin leaves Nassau police headquarters Aug. 14, 2018 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Great Neck woman who fatally stabbed a British tourist visiting her home will be confined to a state psychiatric facility under a ruling Tuesday by a judge who previously found her not criminally responsible for murder due to mental illness.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Robert Bogle's decision capped a precedent-setting case in New York amid the coronavirus pandemic, with Faye Doomchin, 69, attending most of her trial from jail using Skype.

Doomchin stabbed Denise Webster, 61, in a moment of psychosis on Aug. 13, 2018 after suffering from schizophrenia for more than 30 years, Bogle said while delivering his trial verdict last summer.

The judge committed Doomchin after agreeing with the prosecution that she has a dangerous mental disorder. That followed a virtual hearing Tuesday in which a psychiatrist testified and Doomchin pleaded to be set free.

"Not a day goes by where I don't feel mortified and terrible dread over the loss of Denise Webster's life," Doomchin said from Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center. "Judge Bogle, please have mercy and grant me freedom to rebuild my life with my family. Please let me return home and receive the proper psychiatric and medical care to help me heal and be restored to good health."

The wife and mother also promised to "never, never, never again" pose a threat to others or herself.

Police said after Doomchin’s arrest that she had declared she "needed to rid the house of evil" before stabbing Webster after they returned to her home for coffee, cake and piano music after lunch out with a mutual male friend.

Authorities said Doomchin later told police she had made "a terrible mistake" but had felt Webster was "evil." It wasn't her first violent episode.

Doomchin got outpatient psychiatric treatment after a nonfatal assault in 1999 in which she stabbed a stranger in a real estate office while having the same sort of delusion, the judge previously noted.

But a doctor's opinion years ago that Doomchin didn't have a dangerous mental disorder "prevented her from receiving appropriate institutional treatment and could very well be likely why we find ourselves here today," Bogle also said on the day of the verdict.

Webster, who lived in Garswood in northwest England, was visiting New York as part of a trip abroad as she marked five years of being cancer-free and was part of a fan club for the band Queen and its frontman, Adam Lambert, according to trial testimony.

Nassau prosecutor Martin Meaney, now retired, contended during Doomchin’s trial that "she knew what she was doing was wrong and she did it anyway" when she attacked Webster with a kitchen knife.

A psychiatrist who testified for the prosecution said Doomchin suffered from bipolar disorder but wasn’t going through a delusional episode at the time of the slaying.

But Doomchin’s attorney, Robert Gottlieb, argued during the trial that his client was so seriously mentally ill she couldn’t appreciate the consequences of her acts after struggling for decades with schizophrenia.

A forensic psychologist who testified for the defense — via Skype — said Doomchin had a decadeslong persistent delusion that an evil force was permeating the world. He said Doomchin believed her role was to help get rid of that evil and that she was "in the throes of a psychotic episode" when she killed Webster.

The trial was heralded in July as the state’s "first hybrid criminal trial," one with Skype and live courtroom testimony. It also marked the first criminal trial on Long Island as in-person court operations began starting up after the pandemic caused many courthouse closures beginning in March.

The courts since have resumed a mostly-virtual model following another spike in infections across New York.

Bogle said Tuesday he will handle a hearing in six months to determine if Doomchin's confinement will continue. State law requires a patient's confinement to be re-evaluated periodically and a court order is required for release from custody.

"We continue to express our condolences to the family and friends of Denise Webster," Nassau district attorney's office spokesman Brendan Brosh said after Tuesday's proceedings.

Gottlieb pointed back to remarks he made while arguing for a shorter initial confinement and then outpatient treatment for Doomchin.

"Ms. Doomchin is not a murderer. She is a very ill person," he said, calling the case a tragedy.

Locking the defendant in a psychiatric facility "doesn't solve the problems for Faye Doomchin … or for society," the lawyer added.

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