By Neha Malhi and Helen Greenia
RIVERSIDE, CA — The long-delayed jury trial of Raul Alcantar Sanchez, Jr., suspected of killing 34-year-old Thermal resident Carolina Vargas in November 2012, reconvened here Friday in Riverside County Superior Court.
Deputy District Attorney Anne-Marie Lofthouse and Deputy Public Defender Kimberly Allee both questioned Sanchez’s psychiatrist, Dr. Patricia Kirkish, about whether Sanchez was experiencing command hallucinations at the time of committing murder.
Previously, Sanchez’s trial was put on hold after he was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial. He was only recently declared competent enough to stand a trial. Sanchez pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming he has a psychosis.
However, Dr. Kirkish Friday testified Sanchez was not actually experiencing command hallucinations at the time of the murder.
DDA Lofthouse asked, “Did you ask him the content of his hallucinations about the victim prior to Nov. 21 of 2012?” In response, Dr. Kirkish said the defendant did not mention any content about the hallucinations related to Vargas prior to 2018.
DDA Lofthouse followed up by asking Dr. Kirkish to explain what command hallucinations are and whether Sanchez confessed he was experiencing these command hallucinations. This would suggest that the defendant was merely following the command of the voices in his head when committing the murder.
To this, Dr. Kirkish answered, “I did it twice, I asked if he was, to make sure that the defendant is clear in his responses. He was clear that he was not experiencing command hallucinations at the time of the alleged crime.”
PD Allee pointed out that Sanchez used $20 of methamphetamine daily, prior to the day of the alleged crime, and asked Dr. Kirkish whether consuming that much meth could cause psychosis.
“I don’t know how much $20 methamphetamine is, but yes it can cause any kind of psychotic condition that may not have existed previously or can worsen a pre-existing psychotic system,” the psychiatrist said.
DDA Lofthouse argued that Dr. Kirkish is neither a medical doctor, nor a toxicologist, and has never had the opportunity to personally observe the defendant.
DDA Lofthouse then asked Dr. Kirkish to assume a hypothetical situation, “that a person goes to a different location, gets the weapons from one place and then goes to another location with those weapons where the person they want to kill is. Would you not consider that goal-directed behavior?”
Because this was a hypothetical question, the judge ordered Dr. Kirkish not to answer it.
According to Dr. Kirkish’s evaluation, in 2018, Sanchez revealed that at the time of the alleged crime he was experiencing hallucinations but it is difficult for him to repeat what they are saying. Therefore, Sanchez was unable to explain the content of these hallucinations.
The jury trial will resume Monday in Riverside Superior Court, Dept. 2H.