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Prosecution doctor: Defendant who stabbed guest not psychotic at time of killing

Faye Doomchin leaves Nassau police headquarters in August,

Faye Doomchin leaves Nassau police headquarters in August, 2018. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A prosecution expert testified Wednesday in the murder trial of a Great Neck woman who fatally stabbed a British tourist in her home that while the defendant suffered from mental illness, he saw no evidence of psychosis on the day she committed the killing.

Forensic psychiatrist Jeremy Colley said he believes Faye Doomchin, 68, has bipolar disorder but wasn’t going through a delusional episode when she attacked Denise Webster, 61, with a kitchen knife in her living room in August 2018.

The expert, who examined Doomchin in early 2019, said the defendant knew immediately after the attack that what she had done was wrong and that she had made a mistake.

“I just cannot emphasize to you enough — this is not a delusion,” Colley said as prosecutor Martin Meaney questioned him in Nassau County Court.

“My opinion,” the expert also testified, “is that Faye Doomchin did not suffer from a mental disorder on Aug. 13, 2018, that affected her understanding of the nature and consequences of her actions. Nor did it affect her ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct.”

The trial is a historic one in New York, marking the first criminal trial on Long Island during the COVID-19 pandemic that for months forced most courts to close and officials to adopt a virtual model of operations.

Doomchin also has become the first defendant in New York to Skype in to her trial from jail, according to court officials. They said the hybrid nature of the criminal trial — with some virtual and some live testimony — also makes the proceeding a landmark case.

Defense attorney Robert Gottlieb contends that Doomchin, who was first diagnosed with schizophrenia decades ago, is not criminally responsible for her actions because she is seriously mentally ill and didn’t know at the time of the homicide that what she was doing was wrong.

The defense doesn’t contest that Doomchin stabbed Webster after the two ladies returned to her North Shore home for cake and piano music after lunch out with mutual male friend Mitchell Kessler and his mother.

Forensic psychologist Chuck Denison previously testified as a defense witness that Doomchin was “in the throes of a psychotic episode” and for at least 20 years had a persistent delusion that an “evil force is permeating the world” and she held “a special role” of helping rid the world of it.

On Wednesday, the prosecution’s expert referred to a police officer’s grand jury testimony that Doomchin said shortly after the attack that she thought Webster was “evil” and she had “wanted to rid the world of evil and make it a better and safer place.”

Doomchin, according to the testimony, also declared: “I did a terrible thing. I made a mistake … God should strike me dead.”

But Colley said he also didn’t see any mention in records of Doomchin speaking about devils and demons until nine days later when she was at Nassau University Medical Center after her arrest, and yet she didn’t attack anyone in the hospital.

Gottlieb later pointed to police hearing testimony that indicated Doomchin had talked about Satan before her hospitalization.

But Colley indicated when Meaney redirected questions to him that his analysis hadn't changed and that Doomchin often attributed bad things in her life to the work of the devil.

During more questioning by Meaney, Colley also described texts Doomchin exchanged with Kessler as they planned to meet as “organized,” and said she appeared “very well groomed” in photos from the group’s bagel store luncheon and during a video interview with police after the stabbing.

“She does not look as if she is suffering from schizophrenia,” Colley testified.

Some of his testimony seemed to rankle Doomchin. As a midmorning break began but Doomchin was still audible from a Skype connection at Nassau’s jail, she declared: "I'll be OK … The truth will come out."

During more cross-examination, Colley acknowledged not all people suffering from schizophrenia would be ill-kempt.

Gottlieb also asked the witness about a 1999 encounter in which Doomchin stabbed a woman in a real estate office and later pleaded not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect.

Colley said he believed that case was different from the homicide because the quality and reliability of the evidence back then wasn't as good as now.