Pediatrician Testifies in Marsh Trial on Monday

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murder-davis-4by Genevieve Ghamian

The trial of Daniel Marsh continued Monday with testimony from Marsh’s pediatrician. Dr. David Honeychurch testified that he began seeing the defendant in 2008 when Daniel was eleven years old. Dr. Honeychurch was given 600 pages of medical records to refresh his memory of Daniel. On his first visit, the doctor determined that Daniel would be a “late bloomer.”

In April of 2009 Dr. Honeychurch received an email from Daniel’s mother stating he was irritable, angry, moody and “almost hateful.” He recommended she call the psychiatric department.

The doctor did not discuss any “behavior problems” at the next appointment in June 2009. In fact, the next time Dr. Honeychurch addressed Daniel’s psychological issues was over a year later in May of 2010. Marsh’s father called, stating he was having a hard time getting into the psychiatric department. He wanted help getting Daniel an appointment, but Dr. Honeychurch saw an appointment was scheduled for the next day and simply told him to keep it. He did not feel it was a pressing issue or he would have personally called the psychiatric department.

Another year passed and the “eating disorder begins.” In October 2011 Dr. Honeychurch became concerned because Daniel was counting calories and exercising to lose weight. He spent 15-20 minutes with Daniel and immediately notified a nutritionist in his office. Progress notes on that date stated something to the effect of: Fourteen-year-old, history of depression, followed by psychiatry, on Prozac in past, parents disagree in the use of Prozac, no suicide or homicide ideation, per patient.

Friday, November 11, 2011, was the day the Dr. Honeychurch saw Daniel for a “weight check.” The doctor realized Daniel had lost two pounds and made arrangements for him to go to an “intensive outpatient program” the following Monday.

The next visit was December 8, 2011, for a nosebleed and the doctor noted his “eating has improved.”

The only other time Dr. Honeychurch saw Daniel was March of 2013, less than a month before the killings, for a cough and nosebleeds. The notes stated: Anorexia, depression, anxiety, tolerating medication (not making him physically ill) and he gained seven pounds in five weeks. Dr. Honeychurch stated that Daniel did not have any homicidal or suicidal thoughts at that time.

The next witness, Brenda Neal, was employed by Kings View. According to the Facebook page, their mission is “to provide community mental health and social services to those with limited resources, and to do so in the spirit of Christ’s example of love, compassion and respect for all persons.” Yolo County Department of Public Education, Special Education Division, brought her in as a mental health clinician.

Ms. Neal was provided 34 pages of documents to refresh her memory of Daniel, as it was “a long time ago.” She began an assessment of Daniel on October 11, 2012, by meeting his mother. Ms. Neal met with Daniel on October 15, 2012, for the first time. She spent 80 minutes with him and noted minimal eye contact, low mood and low energy.

The next visit was November 7, 2012, during which Ms. Neal noted Daniel “does not like Davis High School.” She saw him for 80 minutes again, and she found him more engaging, verbal and interactive, with increased eye contact and change in affect. He talked about being estranged from his father and having a difficult relationship with him. When asked if Daniel felt like he had no control over his life, Ms. Neal responded “Yes.”

Ms. Neal saw Daniel for 45 minutes on November 14, 2012. He discussed a conflict he had with his mother that morning (about going to school?). His mood seemed low, with a monotone voice and minimal eye contact initially, but no thoughts of suicide or homicide.

Another visit occurred on December 5, 2012. She engaged him by playing card games, but noted he was still moderately reserved and his voice was low. This visit lasted 55 minutes.

The last interaction occurred on December 12, 2012. Ms. Neal sensed something was wrong; Daniel’s affect was very low, a very low mood and poor eye contact. She tried to engage him in conversation by asking a lot of questions. He became increasingly angry, stating that if anyone gets in his way “he is going to f__ them up.” She responded by telling him he needed “additional support” in an inpatient facility. Ms. Neal said he seemed amenable to that, that he wanted help. His mother was called, but he said he could not travel with her to the hospital, he was afraid he would kill her. A police officer was brought in for transportation which turned it into an involuntary psychiatric hold.   The officer asked Ms. Neal to follow them to the hospital because of the rapport she had with Daniel.

Despite the rapport and interaction Ms. Neal had with Daniel, she did not see him again after he went into the hospital (she was hired by another company). Daniel did not have a “private” therapist, outside of the school. Ms. Neal saw him a total of 5 times and did not know the names of the medications he was taking, although she stated he was “compliant.” She observed that “periodically (his) mood would appear to lift,” but he told her several times that he had suicidal thoughts. Poor school attendance by Daniel resulted in several missed visits.

The last witness of the morning was Dr. Joseph Sison, the psychiatrist where Daniel was hospitalized. He was given 34 pages of medical records to help him remember Daniel. When asked to identify Daniel, he stated he was wearing a “nice sweatshirt” rather than the white dress shirt he was actually wearing. He stated that he met Daniel on December 13, 2012, due to his explosive outbursts and threats to hurt others if they disrespected him, and his depression.

Dr. Sison was given Daniel’s previous psychiatric reports from Kaiser Permanente, which noted that Daniel was on Prozac for eight months after his previous hospitalization. From that he inferred that Daniel had been off of his medication for the previous four months.

Dr. Sison noted that the hospital stay began as involuntary, but became voluntary as Daniel was a “very cooperative” depressed young man, who had “a lot of trauma” and was “asking for help.” Dr. Sison stated that Daniel “was just angry” at the time of the outburst and “just went off.” He “felt safer in the hospital” and was monitored every 15 minutes because he “felt suicidal.” There was no agitation or explosiveness in the hospital. He described Daniel as a “really good kid, who wanted to be introspective about what was happening with him.”

Dr. Sison inferred from the Kaiser notes that Daniel had been doing well until the “last few weeks and months when he stopped his medication.” He stated that Daniel did not think Prozac was doing anything for him.

When the doctor explained the need for medication to Daniel and his mother, the two agreed to start Zoloft, because he could be monitored closely in the hospital for side effects.  Dr. Sison included a mood stabilizer, Seroquel, to help with aggression, a potential side effect of Zoloft. Dr. Sison explained an increase in suicides had occurred with Zoloft, but asserted that it was caused more by people stopping their medication. He began to mildly stutter while stating that patients need to be monitored very closely.

Dr. Sison described Daniel as “happy, less anxious, sleeping better” on the new medication. Daniel started on Zoloft on December 14, 2012, at 25 mg and increased the dosage 25 mg every day until he reached 100 mg on December 17, 2012. The last of Dr. Sison’s morning testimony identified the dosage of Seroquel, which stabilized at 25 mg in the morning and 75 mg in the evening.

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4 thoughts on “Pediatrician Testifies in Marsh Trial on Monday”

  1. Biddlin

    “He began to mildly stutter while stating that patients need to be monitored very closely.”
    So? Med levels sound high, but standard stuff. Problem seems to be monitoring as an outpatient.
    ;>)/

  2. tj

    Dr. Sisson certainly underestimated the seriousness of Marsh’s mental illness when he assumed Marsh “was just angry” and “just went off”. He jumped to a very wrong conclusion. A mistake with tragic consequences.

    1. Biddlin

      The good(?) doctor seems to take dispassionate objectivity a bit far. In light of what I assume will be covered tomorrow, the doc’s work seems all the shoddier.
      ;>)/

  3. TrueBlueDevil

    “due to his explosive outbursts and threats to hurt others if they disrespected him” – I’ve heard this from a few teens, part bravado, part a sense of entitlement, part permissive parenting. But he obviously took it into another sphere.

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