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Accused murderer’s competence debated

Accused murderer’s competence debated
By Clayton Woullard And Felix Doligosa Jr., Rocky Mountain News
July 26, 2005

A woman accused of killing two men in Denver last year told a psychiatrist she is a government-paid assassin with plans to form an army of 700 killers.

Dr. Mark Diamond, chief of psychiatry in the forensics division of the Colorado Mental Health Institute, testified Monday in Denver District Court that Amber Torrez, 20, is delusional and not competent to stand trial.

But a second doctor who testified Monday disagreed.

Dr. Karen Fukutaki, a psychiatrist at Denver Health Medical Center, said that based on her 90-minute meeting with Torrez in March, she believes Torrez is competent to stand trial.

Torrez is facing first-degree murder charges for the slayings of John Hand and Masfin Gazahgne.

Hand, the founder of Colorado Free University, was found in his east Denver apartment on March 28, 2004. He had been stabbed in his face, arms, torso and legs.

The next day, Gazahgne, a 45- year-old Freedom Cab driver, was stabbed 39 times.

Torrez was linked to Hand’s murder through purchases she allegedly made with his credit card.

The night of Gazahgne’s murder, Torrez was arrested in an alley while trying to hide a knife in her jacket pocket. Police said there was blood on Torrez’s clothing.

Diamond said Torrez believes she is an assassin hired by the U.S. government.

Diamond also said Torrez described to him plans for a company of 700 assassins she would lead called Shadow Angel Industries that would carry out government- sponsored murders.

“She believes she is doing the right thing by killing people and that the government will reward her,” Diamond said of Torrez.

Torrez has rejected her lawyer’s options to plead not guilty by reason of insanity and not guilty due to post-traumatic stress disorder. This is because she does not believe she has a mental illness, according to Diamond.

Diamond diagnosed Torrez with a bipolar type of schizo-affective disorder with anti-social personality disorder. He said she is more calm and focused on medication, but holds onto her delusions, chiefly her belief that the murders of Hand and Gazahgne would be forgiven by the U.S. government.

Torrez told him she killed Hand because he attempted to pay her for sex and killed Gazahgne because he tried to rape her, Diamond testified.

Her desire for vigilante justice also stems from incidents in her past, according to Fukutaki, the Denver Health psychiatrist.

Fukutaki testified that Torrez told her that when she was 15 a man approached her from behind, held a knife to her neck and threatened to kill her. Torrez managed to break free, suffering a laceration to the neck, but didn’t feel the man was properly punished, Fukutaki said.

Torrez also told Fukutaki of being drugged with the date-rape drug GHB and raped by a male friend who she said was never charged.

Monday’s hearing ended before prosecutors and defense attorneys delivered closing arguments, which are scheduled today before Judge Christina Habas, who will decide if Torrez is competent to stand trial.

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