CT man found not guilty of murder by reason of mental disease

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A three-judge panel in Hartford found a man not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect on Monday after unanimously ruling prosecutors had put forth enough evidence to find him guilty of murder, reckless endangerment and criminal possession of a firearm for fatally shooting his sister’s fiancé in 2022.

Deondre Linder, 26, who had lived in Farmington, appeared at Superior Court in Hartford Monday, where the three judges considered the charges against him, and the evaluation by a doctor of psychiatry who testified in his trial.

Judge Nuala E. Droney read from a report by Dr. Peter Morgan, chair of psychiatry at Yale New Haven Health’s Bridgeport Hospital, ​​who diagnosed Linder with schizophrenia and reported that he was being commanded by a hallucinated voice named “James” the night he fatally shot his sister’s fiancé, Jorge Tejada Camacho.

On March 16, 2022, Linder reportedly burst into the bedroom his sister was sharing with Tejada Camacho in their home on Sunset Terrace and fired several shots, fatally striking the 31-year-old.

Woman’s fiancé killed in their Farmington house while children were sleeping; her brother faces a murder charge, police say

Morgan reported that Linder was reportedly in the midst of a day-long “spell” of severe auditory hallucinations and did not have control of his own body when the shooting occurred.

“James told him to kill (Tejada Camacho) and he felt powerless to resist,” Droney said, quoting Morgan’s report and testimony.

Morgan also reported that Linder “had great difficulty ignoring and refusing to obey James,” a hallucination he said had a negative, scary demeanor and would “take control” of his body.

Linder reportedly told the doctor that on the night of the shooting, he was watching television when the voice he heard convinced him that Tejada Camacho, who he was living with, had drugged and sexually assaulted him the night before.

Court records show that just before Linder opened fire, his sister reportedly heard him shout “I know what you did.” She then heard gunshots ring out in the dark.

When she turned on the lights, she saw Tejada Camacho covered in blood. His eyes were open, she said, but she knew he was dead.

Droney said Monday that investigators found no evidence to support any sexual assault.

According to Morgan’s testimony and report, Linder began having auditory hallucinations when he was about 14.

”He hears voices, a phenomenon that began when he was 14,” Morgan reported after multiple conversations with Linder and a review of police, school and Department of Correction records.

The hallucinations come in the form of two principal voices, records show, “James” and one he calls “Jamal,” who is funny.

Morgan’s report and testimony indicated that Linder was raised in Las Vegas and Knoxville. He moved to Connecticut to live with his sister and was working at Amazon until he was reportedly fired for laughing out of nowhere, Droney said.

Droney explained during Monday’s court proceedings that in order to find someone not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, the court needed to find that his mental disease or defect impacted his ability to understand his own actions.

The judges had to agree that Linder lacked the capacity to control his own conduct and lacked capacity to appreciate wrongfulness of his actions and understand it both mentally and emotionally, Droney said.

Droney said the three judges unanimously agreed with Morgan’s findings that both of those things applied in this case — that Linder’s mental health issues caused a misperception of reality and caused him to behave “contrary to societal morality.”

Droney said they found that, according to the facts and findings in Morgan’s report, Linder was “experiencing a severe episode” leading up to the shooting and at the time of the shooting and believed that his own well being was being threatened.

Before finding Linder not guilty under that ruling, Droney read through each of the charges against him — murder, criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, two counts of risk of injury to a child and reckless endangerment

The court found that state prosecutors presented enough evidence to prove that Linder was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of three of those crimes.

Droney said the court considered multiple factors in finding that the state provided enough evidence to prove those three charges, including the “sudden onset” of the attack, which occurred while the victim was sleeping without any prior fight or provocation and the number of bullets fired.

Evidence showed that Linder “fired at least seven times at Jorge Tejada Camacho in his bed just a few feet away,” Droney said. The fact that some of those bullets struck Tejada Camacho in his arms, said Droney, indicated that he raised his arms in self defense.

Linder fled the house after the shooting, court records show, allegedly taking Camacho’s blue Volkswagen Passat and heading toward Interstate 84.

Farmington officers stopped him and arrested him. He allegedly said, “I had a reason though,” according to police.

Part of Morgan’s testimony and report, Droney said, was that Linder’s statements to police and medical professionals were consistent: He believed he had no choice but to kill his sister’s fiancé.

When investigators found Linder, Droney said, he had evidence of gunpowder residue on his hands and they found him to be in possession of a pistol. That pistol matched both shell casings found at the scene and bullets recovered from Tejada Camacho’s body.

On the charge of reckless endangerment, Droney said the court found that Linder was reckless when he fired shots at the bed where his sister — who was not his intended target — was also sleeping.

Droney said Linder “did more than simply not care” but expressed an extreme indifference to her life and had to be aware of and ignored substantial risk of shooting his sister.

Linder’s sister testified at her brother’s trial.

Droney said she “witnessed the crime from nearly the same vantage point as the decedent,” and identified her brother in court, saying she recognized both his voice and appearance in her bedroom the night of the shooting.

She was not injured in the shooting. Her two children were also in the house at the time of the shooting but were not injured.

The panel found that the state did not present enough evidence to find Linder guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of either charge or risk of injury to a minor he faced.

The state did not put on evidence of “how the events in the master bedroom put either of the children at risk of physical injury,” Droney said.

Linder sat quietly beside his attorney during the court proceedings, wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. He showed no visible reaction to the judge’s comments and did not have an opportunity to address the court.

After the panel issued their ruling, Linder was let out of the courtroom in handcuffs. He will be taken to a state psychiatric hospital where the superintendent of the hospital will write a report for the court to review. After that report is written, Linder and his attorney will have an opportunity to request a second report. If they do, he will return to court July 10. If they don’t request a second report, he will return to court on June 25.

At that next hearing, loved ones of the victim will have an opportunity to speak. Linder will then either be committed to the state psychiatric hospital or given conditional release. Either way he will be in the custody of the Connecticut Psychiatric Security Review Board.

For now, Linder has been committed to the custody of the commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

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