CHICAGO -- Alleged serial killer Andrew Urdiales is psychotic, an expert witness for the defense testified in his murder trial Monday.
According to Charles Opsahl, a Yale University-educated psychologist, Urdiales sustained four head injuries during his lifetime. The results from a battery of psychological tests and interviews with the accused killer, the doctor said, show Urdiales suffers from brain damage.
"There is psychotic thinking going on," Opsahl said. "His ability to plan, to make plans for himself, is impaired...This is merely the tip of the iceberg. Mentally, he's in a good deal of turmoil."
Opsahl diagnosed Urdiales as psychotic, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, manic-depression and possibly attention-deficit disorder.
Urdiales, 37, of the Southeast Side, is on trial before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Edward M. Fiala Jr. at the Criminal Courts Building at 26th Street and California Avenue for the 1996 murders of Lori Uylaki, 25, of Hammond and Lynn Huber, 22, of Chicago. The bodies of both women were found in Wolf Lake, just over the Illinois border.
Urdiales is suspected in the murders of eight women in Illinois and California, including Cassandra Corum, 21, of Hammond, in 1996 in Livingston County, Ill. He allegedly left Corum's body in the Vermilion River near Pontiac, about 90 miles south of Chicago.
The defense does not dispute prosecution claims that Urdiales killed the women. Rather, in opening arguments, public defenders for Urdiales asserted their client is insane.
Opsahl was the first witness for the defense to appear on the stand. The doctor said he conducted more than 20 psychological tests on Urdiales over a three-day period in December 1999 while Urdiales was being held at the Cook County Jail.
Opsahl said Urdiales told him of four head injuries he sustained over the years, beginning with a car accident when he was three or four years old in which he struck his head on the dashboard, requiring stitches. The second injury occurred when Urdiales was seven or eight years old, when he hit his head on a concrete wall and again required stitches.
Urdiales allegedly told Opsahl he also received a black eye during a fight in 1981 and later got a concussion while playing soccer in the Marine Corps.
Opsahl said test results show Urdiales has significant damage to the left frontal lobe of the brain, which controls such functions are the ability to reason, problem solving, planning, decision making and predicting the outcome of social situations.
Urdiales allegedly told Opsahl he "accidentally" killed the family dog when he was in his early teens, striking the animal in the head with a baseball bat because it wouldn't come out when he told it to.
"He later told his parents the dog had fallen on his own and broken his neck," Opsahl said, adding that animal cruelty is often a sign of attention-deficit disorder.
Opsahl said Urdiales told him he had hallucinations of bugs crawling up his arms and that he heard whispering voices.
During the psychological evaluation, Opsahl said he conducted a test to see if Urdiales was attempting to fake psychosis and determined he was not.
"If he wasn't being honest with me, there was no pattern of deception," Opsahl said.
Intelligence tests also showed Urdiales was in the average range, Opsahl said.
Prosecutor Frank Marek cross examined Opsahl, questioning whether he had information other than what Urdiales told him about his childhood and about his head injuries to support the defendant's claims.
Marek suggested the head injuries allegedly sustained by Urdiales may not have resulted in brain damage.
"You relied totally and completely on what Mr. Urdiales told you," Marek said. "You didn't independently verify anything, did you?"
Opsahl testified that he had no physical tests of Urdiales' brain to back the defendants claims of head injuries, but said he felt his psychological tests provided sufficient, if not superior, evidence.
Marek also questioned the validity of Urdiales' claims of hallucinations, asking if he could verify them medically.
"There's no way to ever verify when someone tells you they are hallucinating, is there?" Marek asked.
Opsahl said a doctor must rely on what the patient tells him, adding that he believed Urdiales' claims.
Lauri Harvey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 933-4169.