By ANNA KRISTINA MOSEIDJORD
SACRAMENTO, CA — A preliminary hearing for an elderly man accused with stabbing his wife was held in Sacramento County Superior Court this past week—the case has been ongoing since January 2019.
Serob Barsegyan, a white-haired man in his eighties, is facing three felony charges after allegedly chasing his wife into their front yard and stabbing her multiple times with a butcher’s knife. These charges include attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and corporal injury to a spouse.
Thursday’s hearing included testimony from two Sacramento County police officers who were called to Barsegyan’s house by a 911 domestic violence call on Jan. 14, 2019.
“When we arrived, there was a female laying on the grass in front of a residence who was bleeding from her face and her stomach area. She was not moving,” Waggoner said, adding that some ways away from the woman was Barsegyan and a butcher’s knife.
Daniel Garcia, the other officer who testified Thursday, recalled talking to a man, who said he witnessed the stabbing unfold even before Waggoner arrived at the scene.
According to Garcia, the man witnessed an elderly man (allegedly Barsegyan) chase an elderly woman out of the house and into their yard, where he pushed her down and then seemed to be hitting her.
It was not until the witness came closer, he told the officer, that he realized the man had a knife, and was in fact stabbing the woman. He and another witness then restrained Barsegyan, wrestling him to the ground before the police arrived.
According to records submitted at the hearing, Barsegyan’s wife was rushed to the hospital and then immediately into emergency surgery.
“From the court’s review of the evidence, especially the medical records, we believe there is sufficient circumstantial evidence in terms of … the stab wounds, the location of the stab wounds … to vital areas — they do adequately convey an intent to kill,” said the judge.
This ruling allows the case to proceed as a murder charge.
However, several issues of health and translation arose throughout the hearing.
Barsegyan speaks primarily Armenian, and required an interpreter, who communicated with him over the phone. In the COVID era, this is fairly standard court practice, but communication between Barsegyan and his interpreter was disrupted multiple times throughout the hearing.
Barsegyan was also assisted by a nurse from Patton State Hospital, a forensic hospital where he is a patient.
At one point, his nurse wheeled Barsegyan toward the camera that was streaming the court, in order for a witness to identify him. Coming closer to the screen, and wheeled by the nurse in his wheelchair, Barsegyan’s age was striking contrast to the intensity of the crime described.
Since the original charges were originally filed, Barsegyan has been declared “incompetent to stand trial,” meaning that special legal measures will have to be taken. Among these is Barsegyan’s residence at Patton State Hospital, which is one of the oldest mental health facilities in California.
According to Patton’s government website, the facility was built in 1890, and for a long time was known only as “The Insane Asylum,” a fact which gestures at its long history and current role.
In addition to this, the hearing today opened an investigation to create a Murphy Conservatorship for Barsegyan. A Murphy Conservatorship would allow the person legally appointed his conservator to place Barsegyan in a state hospital or psychiatric facility against his will.
Barsegyan’s mental and physical health issues have played a large role in this case, the parties agreed, which has now dragged on for more than two years, and will likely continue to be a major factor as it progresses.