BRENTWOOD, N.H. -- Defense attorneys for Sheila LaBarre described her Tuesday as a delusional woman who believed every man in her life was a pedophile and who saw herself as an avenging angel.
Both sides gave opening statements in LaBarre's insanity trial. Defense attorney are trying to show that the Epping, N.H., woman was insane when she killed Kenneth Countie and Michael Deloge on her farm.
Attorney Brad Bailey said that LaBarre thought the men and other men in her life were pedophiles and that they were victims of incest. He said she believed people were in the woods near her house who were "out to get her."
Bailey said that LaBarre even believes she has died and come back to earth.
"This is a woman who sincerely believes she has been told by God himself, even though she's died, to return to earth to 'find the reason why,'" Bailey said. "A woman who truly believes she is an angel, a spirit walking among the living, who has returned to earth for a special purpose."
But prosecutors said that while LaBarre may have a mental illness, she should not be considered insane. They said psychiatric experts will testify that she has a mood disorder that leads to much of her behavior.
Prosecutor Ann Rice said that LaBarre's ideas about pedophiles were a way of allowing her to humiliate the men she killed.
"It's all wrapped up in the defendant's need to control, dominate and humiliate," Rice said.
Rice said LaBarre was obsessed with sex, and her actions were part of that obsession. She also noted that LaBarre had Countie sign over power of attorney to her and that LaBarre's descriptions of what happened to the men changed over time.
The jury will have to determine whether LaBarre was insane, but there is no legal definition of insanity in New Hampshire. Bailey said the experts in the trial will show that his client was insane.
"You'll know insanity when you see it, and you will see it in this case," he said.
But prosecutors said LaBarre's actions and mannerism, though unusual, do not mean she was insane.
"She's crude, manipulative, cruel and vindictive," Rice said. "And your common sense will tell you that a person can be any of those things and not be insane."
Hundreds of witnesses are schedule to appear, and the trial could last several weeks.
Before opening statements, the jury toured some of the key locations involved in the case. Jurors visited the Wal-Mart where, according to prosecutors, workers saw a weak and sick-looking Countie with LaBarre on two occasions in March 2006, days before he was killed.
Prosecutors told jury members to note the proximity of the Wal-Mart to the LaBarre farm.
At the 115-acre farm, jurors were able to get out but weren't allowed to enter the house.
"It's been approximately 2½ years," Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said. "It's been vandalized, it's not in good repair, it's not safe to go in. Through pictures and video, we will be able to give you a rendition of how the house looked at the time."
Jurors also saw where LaBarre's coat was found and the location where her green Nissan truck was found.
Posted on: May 13, 2008, 04:00:14 PM
BRENTWOOD, N.H. -- One of the victims of Sheila LaBarre was heard in court Monday when jurors saw a video he made at some point before he died.
In the video, Michael Deloge accuses his mother of allowing him to be abused as a child. The accusations are similar to ones LaBarre made about the mothers of Deloge and Kenneth Countie.
LaBarre has admitted killing Countie and Deloge but said she was insane at the time. In other tapes and statements presented in the trial, LaBarre said she believed the two men had been abused by their mothers, but investigators said the allegations were false.
"I'm starting to remember things about the past," Deloge says in the video. "You really messed me up. You really messed me up."
Some scratches and bruises can be seen on Deloge's face, but he says on the video that the injuries were caused by sticks he was gathering on the property.
Defense psychiatrists said that LaBarre was abused herself as a child and projected her own experience onto her victims. They said she was able to convince the men that they were pedophiles and had been victims of incest.
She then killed the men at different times on her Epping farm. Police found burned remains belonging to Countie in several burn piles on her property.
Earlier in the morning, state police Detective Sgt. Steven Rowland read letters from LaBarre and her victims into evidence and showed the jury a knife that was found in a dining room hutch.
"We could observe blood, what we believed to be blood, on the blade," Rowland said.
Rowland said that blood spatter was also found inside the house.
Rowland read a handwritten letter that was signed by Deloge and written to his mother, saying that he did not want to see her again. He also read a love letter from Deloge to LaBarre.
Rowland said he was the evidence technician at LaBarre's farm and was responsible for packaging evidence found at the scene.
Like other police officers, Rowland described LaBarre's house as unkempt, and he recalled smelling particular odors, such as mildew and vomit, when he first entered the building.
The trial session began about 40 minutes late Monday because of a late juror. Judge Tina Nadeau said that she expects closing arguments will be made on June 18 or 19.
Posted on: June 12, 2008, 03:21:50 PM
BRENTWOOD, N.H. -- Jurors heard from Sheila LaBarre on Thursday in a videotaped interview she had with a prosecution psychiatrist.
LaBarre told psychiatrist Albert Drukteinis the story of her life, from abuse as a child, through multiple marriages, to the time she killed two of her boyfriends.
LaBarre has admitted to killing Kenneth Countie and Michael Deloge but said she was insane at the time.
The conversation was taped at the beginning of this year, and the set of three interviews lasts 12 hours. Early on, the topic turned to LaBarre's abusive father in Alabama.
"Daddy could be very good, but he could also be extremely cruel," she said. "Extremely cruel."
At times in the interview, LaBarre cries. At other times, she laughs loudly. She seems to hold little back, including the admission of a pregnancy with her high school boyfriend. That ended in abortion that, LaBarre said, took place when she was seven months pregnant.
"And it was hard on me," LaBarre said. "You know why? Because I was so far along that it was not supposed to be done."
Eventually, LaBarre is asked about her relationships as an adult. She describes many in graphic detail. In the middle of it all, she abruptly addresses the charges against her.
"I'm not guilty of first-degree murder," she said. "I'm not guilty of murder. You know, but I sit before you, talking about things you know that are painful for me."
The prosecution will play the rest of the 12 hours of interviews on Monday. There is no court on Friday because of a scheduling conflict.
Closing arguments are expected to start Wednesday.
Posted on: June 13, 2008, 11:19:28 AM
BRENTWOOD, N.H. -- Sheila LaBarre erupted angrily in court on Tuesday as a prosecution expert testified that he did not think she was criminally insane when she killed two men.
Psychiatrist Dr. Albert Drukteinis was questioning part of LaBarre's stories and whether Michael Deloge killed some of her animals. LaBarre had accused Deloge of killing some of her animals and said she beat Deloge with a chain, which led to his death.
When Drukteinis implied that LaBarre might have killed her animals herself, LaBarre began shouting angrily in court.
"I didn't kill my animals!" LaBarre shouted. "I never hurt an animal! I didn't shoot a dog! You're getting paid to say all this about me!"
The outburst startled everyone in the courtroom, and Carolynn Lodge, the mother of Kenneth Countie, one of LaBarre's victims cried out.
LaBarre was escorted from the courtroom, and the judge called for a short break. After less than 10 minutes, a composed LaBarre returned to the room, and the trial continued. No mention was made of the outburst.
Drukteinis had been testifying about his assessment of LaBarre following three lengthy interviews and reviews of thousands of pages of records. He said that his diagnosis was fairly close to those put forth by defense experts, but he didn't agree that she was psychotic when she killed Deloge and Countie.
"My opinion is that she has not established that her actions in killing ... those two individuals was the product of a mental illness," he said.
LaBarre has admitted killing the men but she said she was insane at the time.
Drukteinis said that LaBarre didn't appear psychotic to him when he interviewed her. He said she also understood his questions well and was able to answer them, at times trying to explain away evidence that made her look bad.
He also said that she functioned much better than people with serious psychotic disorders normally do.
Drukteinis suggested that LaBarre could have been faking or exaggerating symptoms of mental illness. He said she indicated that she had more symptoms than are typically found in a disturbed individual.
The defense has said LaBarre saw herself as an avenging angel. Experts testified that she believed most of the men in her life were pedophiles, and she believed it was her duty to rid the world of pedophiles.
But Drukteinis rejected that idea, saying that her actions were not consistent with believing she had a moral duty to kill the men. He said she brought them into her house, lived with them, cared with them and had sex with them before torturing and eventually killing them.
"It may just as well be a massive distortion in which it's not that she killed them because they're pedophiles, it's that it may have given her an excuse to kill them because she's sadistic and because that's what her aim was, to be sadistic," Drukteinis said.
Although LaBarre accused Deloge and Countie of being pedophiles and victims of incest, investigators have said those allegations were false.
On cross-examination, Drukteinis defended his diagnosis, saying that LaBarre's delusions did not cause her actions.
"The delusion is the excuse, not the reason," he said.
The prosecution rested its case at the end of the day. The defense did not call any rebuttal witnesses, and opening arguments are scheduled to being at 1 p.m. Wednesday. The jury could begin deliberating as early as that afternoon.
Posted on: June 17, 2008, 05:20:20 PM
BRENTWOOD, N.H. -- The insanity case of Sheila LaBarre is now in the hands of the jury.
Both sides presented closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, wrapping up six weeks of the trial. The jury will decide if LaBarre was insane when she killed Michael Deloge and Kenneth Countie.
The burden of proof lies with the defense in an insanity case. Defense lawyers have to prove with "clear and convincing evidence" that LaBarre was insane when she killed the men.
The defense has never been successfully used in New Hampshire. If the jury decides LaBarre is insane, she would go to the state mental hospital. If not, she would be sentenced to prison for the rest of her life.
Prosecutors gave closing arguments first, saying that LaBarre's lawyers didn't prove she was insane.
"She knew what she did in both murders was legally wrong," prosecutor Jim Boffetti said. "She made careful decisions to conceal her crimes and systematically destroy evidence."
Boffetti said LaBarre isn't insane but sadistic. He said she didn't kill her victims because she believed they were pedophiles.
"She taunted, tormented and tortured both men as part of her sexual perversion," Boffetti said.
Following Countie's death, LaBarre knew police were on to her, Boffetti said.
"She was in a panic -- burning, sifting, flushing everything in sight that could implicate her in the murder," he said.
Boffetti said she then ran from police, withdrawing money from the bank and changing her appearance and name.
But defense attorney Jeffrey Denner said those same facts show she's insane.
"Sheila LaBarre is crazy. Sheila LaBarre is utterly crazy," Denner said. "Sheila LaBarre is a deeply disturbed woman."
They said she's not capable of knowing the difference between right and wrong, and because of that, she can't be held responsible for the two killings.
"Why did these murders happen if she's not crazy? If she's not insane? If she's not suffering from an actual diluted psychotic illness?" Denner said.
At the end of the day, the judge gave the jury its instructions for deliberations, which will start Thursday morning. It will be the first time jurors will be able to talk about the case.