Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Testimony shows life of abuse

Testimony shows life of abuse

Accused serial killer paranoid schizophrenic, expert says

  • Updated

Andrew Urdiales grew up in a violent, abusive home where he was neglected by his parents, was molested by his sister, and suffered several broken bones and falls requiring stitches, witnesses testified in his murder trial last week.

Urdiales, 37, who grew up on both the Southeast Side and Burnham, was born into a family of recurring mental illness on both his mother's and father's sides, a psychiatric expert told a jury in Cook County Criminal Court in Chicago.

The accused serial killer confessed to three 1996 murders in Illinois, five in California between 1986 and 1995, and a rape-abduction in California in 1992, witnesses for both sides testified.

Urdiales, a former Marine, is on trial before Associate Judge Edward Fiala Jr. for the murders of Lori Uylaki, 25, of Hammond, and Lynn Huber, 22, of Chicago. Their bodies were found in Wolf Lake, along the Illinois-Indiana border, in 1996.

Public defenders have not contested the murders and are arguing Urdiales is insane. Psychiatric experts have testified he is psychotic and a paranoid schizophrenic and lacked the capacity to conform to state law when he killed.

All of Urdiales' nine alleged victims were women and at least six were prostitutes.

Police said early in their investigation of Uylaki's murder that she also was a prostitute, but her family has disputed that claim and attorneys for both sides have avoided the subject in court.

Prosecutors presented evidence for the three Illinois murders largely from confessions investigators wrote and Urdiales signed after he was arrested in April 1997.

State's attorneys have suggested in their cross-examinations that the hardships Urdiales allegedly endured growing up are exaggerated and he may have planned his insanity defense while in custody for five years.

Both Charles Opsahl, a Yale University-educated psychologist, and Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a psychiatry professor at Yale and New York universities, said they determined Urdiales was not faking.

Opsahl said he tested Urdiales and discovered no pattern of deception.

Lewis said Urdiales exhibited far too many symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia to fake it and acted the same way with her as Veterans Administration psychologist Janet Willer documented in 1991 to 1996.

Urdiales had the perfect opportunity to "malinger" when the state's psychological expert, Dr. Mathew Markos, asked him if he felt bad about the murders.

"Andrew said, 'Does a police officer or a military person feel bad when he shoots someone?' " Lewis said. "The classic signs of malingering are remorse, when defendants say, 'Oh, my God. I didn't know what I was doing. I'm so sorry.

"You ask Andrew if he's sorry and he says, 'Yes' and then 'Duh.' You ask him, 'How did you feel when you did it?' and he says, 'A little fuzzy.' "

Lewis' diagnosis

Lewis, who co-wrote the book "Guilty by Reason of Insanity," interviewed Urdiales for about 40 hours over three days between February 2000 and April 27.

She and her assistant, Catherine Yeager, also reviewed records of all other interviews with Urdiales and interviewed his parents, three sisters, two brothers, a prostitute who befriended Urdiales and the mother of one of his childhood friends, Lewis said.

Lewis visited the Urdiales family home at 97th Street and Commercial Avenue, where he lived when he was arrested, to "get a sense of what his life was like," she said.

The doctor reviewed his confessions, police records of the case, medical records, school records, military records, Willer's notes, Markos' notes and neuropsychological test results, Lewis said.

Lewis diagnosed Urdiales as a paranoid schizophrenic, a rare psychosis in which "patients are not in contact all of the time with the same reality all of the rest of us are in contact with," she said.

"Because of the way the brain works, schizophrenia is now recognized as a biological, psychological disorder," Lewis said. "It can be made worse or evoked by stressors or trauma to the brain."

Parental history

Schizophrenics often have relatives who are seriously disturbed psychologically, and Urdiales is no exception, Lewis said.

Urdiales' mother, Margaret, was raised in a home "in which alcoholism, violence and incest were transmitted from one generation to the next," Lewis said.

Margaret Urdiales' chronically alcoholic mother died of cirrhosis at 45, and her father was a fervent "womanizer" who married a mail-order bride from South America shortly after his wife's death and married another woman in a Texas border town after he retired at age 74, Lewis said.

One of Urdiales' brothers was a "flamboyant dresser" who married seven times and divorced only once, Lewis said. "These are certainly possible manic depressive symptoms," she said.

Margaret Urdiales was "very hyper" and drove Andrew's father, Alfred, "nuts," Lewis said. Other times, Margaret Urdiales was "very depressed," particularly after the death of their son, Alfred Jr., in Vietnam in the late 1960s, Lewis said.

"Her depression went on for years," Lewis said. "She could not function or take care of Andrew." That Margaret Urdiales "talked to ghosts" was a sign of psychotic depression, Lewis said.

At the same time, she had a "fierce temper" and kept a belt in the freezer with which she "would beat and beat and beat" her children, especially Cynthia, Lewis said.

Margaret Urdiales, who was "extremely suspicious" of Lewis during her interview, is clearly "emotionally disturbed," Lewis said.

Alfred Urdiales grew up in violent household, where his mother beat him "mercilessly" because his father had left her, Lewis said.

"He said life was not worth living," she said. "He wondered whether his mother was a prostitute because she ran the streets so much." Because of her "peculiar behavior," Alfred's mother became the target of her mother-in-law and sister-in-law's rage when they once came over and "beat her up," Lewis said.

When he married, Alfred Urdiales used violence regularly and told Lewis he once "coldcocked" a boy who picked on Andrew, she said. "He told the kids, 'You have to hurt them or they'll hurt you,' " Lewis said.

Alfred Urdiales would drag his children out of bed in the middle of the night and order them to each do something, six or seven projects they would never finish before falling back asleep, she said.

Andrew's siblings

Andrew Urdiales' sister, Phyllis, suffered from tremendous mood swings ranging from suicidal tendencies to "high-energy partying," Lewis said.

One sister, who was rambunctious and promiscuous, often received beatings for her behavior, Lewis said.

Andrew's brother, Arthur, suffered severe mood swings, she said. Arthur said he "felt like he was three different people," Lewis said.

Cynthia denied her mood swings and practiced a "kind of inappropriate affect of relating."

"For example, I had just met her and most people are uncomfortable with shrinks," Lewis said. "She rambled in detail on the difficulty of her periods, oblivious to the inappropriateness of that."

Cynthia described her fascination with knives and said as a teen-ager she wanted to become a military sniper, Lewis said.

"She had been sexually abused during her childhood," Lewis said. "I could go on and on, but you get the idea of the psychopathology in the household. You get a sense of the looseness and inappropriateness and difficulty in relating to other people's feelings."

The 'feral' children

A relative named Richard, who had been given up for adoption by Alfred Urdiales' sister, came to live with the family and sexually molested Andrew's sisters, Monica and Cynthia, Lewis said.

When Alfred Urdiales learned of the molestation, he beat Richard "within an inch of his life" and sent him away, Lewis said. "He had to be pulled away in order not to kill Richard," she said.

When Richard left, Monica had a sexual relationship with Andrew, Lewis said.

Monica denied trying to have intercourse, as Andrew claimed, and said they "just touched each other," Lewis said.

Foster children, whom Andrew's siblings described as "feral," came to live with the family and "did not know how to eat with a fork and spoon," Lewis said.

The oldest was "extremely aggressive," and Andrew relied on Cynthia to protect him, Lewis said.

Andrew and Alfred Urdiales Jr. were "very close" and rode on Alfred's motorcycle together before he died, she said.

"Alfred left for Vietnam and was killed very soon after he left," Lewis said. "So Andrew lost him and then lost his mother to depression and withdrawal."

Physical abuse

Alfred and Margaret Urdiales had "very violent" fights between each other, and several children "knew of an episode where their mother went after their father with a knife," Lewis said.

"Their mother often pulled them out of the house because of their father's violence towards her," she said.

Both parents "fiercely" beat the older siblings with chords and the freezer belt," Lewis said. "Their father would actually punch Monica and beat her severely over dating or rambunctiousness," Lewis said.

However, Andrew Urdiales was not beaten by his parents, she said. He suffered his attacks at the hands of his peers, who called him a "homosexual," Lewis said.

"Most of his family seemed to feel he was beaten up because he was very peculiar," she said. "Arthur said Andrew was beaten up because of prejudice against Mexicans and also because he was an oddball and couldn't relate to other people in class."

Urdiales was an "average" student in grade school and at Thornridge High School in Dolton, but was a social outcast, Lewis said.

Urdiales graduated from Thornridge in 1982 but only after allowing his grades to drop and transferring into a vocational program in order to graduate, she said.

He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps "with fantasies of learning to defend himself and to destroy -- not out of patriotism," Lewis said.

Urdiales adapted well to the Marines' structured lifestyle and was promoted, but he had difficulty making friends and was later demoted," she said.

"When he became a corporal, he had trouble giving orders," Lewis said. "They called him 'Corp. Urinalysis," she said.

Opsahl's analysis

In December 1999, psychologist Charles Opsahl spent six to eight hours a day for three days interviewing Urdiales and conducting tests on him.

Opsahl, who testified as an expert defense witness last week, said jail guards allowed him to use an office normally used by the jail's chaplain for the tests.

"It was just Andrew and me in the room," he said. "The door was open, and the guards would go by from time to time. ... His speech was often pressured and rapid-fire. He was rambling at times."

Opsahl said Urdiales' speech patterns were significant clinically, suggesting he may be manic-depressive.

"Mr. Urdiales was very, very alert, very vigilant," Opsahl said. "He was very interested in what was going on in the hall (with the guards). He was suspicious and even paranoid about what the guards were doing and saying about him."

Opsahl described Urdiales as "hyper-vigilant," saying he "makes a point to really look around, doesn't miss any detail." That behavior, Opsahl said, is indicative of a paranoid individual.

According to Opsahl, Urdiales told him that, "when he felt anger, he felt quite explosive inside."

"I didn't like my temper," Urdiales told the doctor. "My parents took me for granted. They weren't too involved."

Opsahl said Urdiales told him that he didn't like many of his teachers when he was growing up and quite possibly had attention deficit disorder.

"His low academic abilities made him angry," Opsahl said.

Projected testing

On Dec. 22, 1999, Opsahl showed Urdiales a card with a line drawing on it and asked him to make up a story based on the drawing. The drawing depicted two men, both dressed in business suits. One of the men is older and standing. The younger man is seated.

Opsahl said subjects who are shown this card frequently tell a story suggesting the older man is giving advice to the younger man as in a father-son relationship or suggest it shows an attorney standing before his client talking about a case.

Urdiales' take on the picture, the doctor said, was quite different.

Opsahl said he believed Urdiales' story was a "lose, rambling account of his own life."

Phil Rockrohr can be reached at or (219) 933-3248.

Lauri Harvey can be reached at or (219) 852-4310.


Be the first to know

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


News Alerts

Breaking News


Entertainment & Dining

Latest News

Local Sports

NWI Prep Sport News

Weather Alerts