|Woman Who Blamed
Mother's Death On Paxil Is Convicted Of Murder
|Posted - September 29, 2003
Roanoke, Va. (AP) -
woman who claimed prescription antidepressants made her
homicidal was convicted Monday of brutally stomping her mother
to death in a bathroom scuffle in the middle of the night.
Cindy Gail Countess, 49, was
escorted from Circuit Court by sheriff's deputies, sobbing as
Judge Clifford R. Weckstein ruled there was enough evidence to
convict her of second-degree murder.
Sentencing was set for Nov. 24.
Countess faces up to 40 years in prison.
Throughout the four-day bench trial,
Countess did not dispute prosecutors' claims that she killed
her mother, 82-year-old Edna Dooley, on May 3, 2002. In a rare
defense, lawyers argued that Countess' prescription for the
anti-depressant Paxil intoxicated her, turning her especially
belligerent and unable to make thoughtful decisions.
"She did not have the power to control
or restrain her actions," lawyer Anna Bagwell said.
Prosecutors argued there was no
scientific evidence to back those claims, and that Countess
was never clear about the kind or amount of drugs she was
taking when asked by the defense's medical expert.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney
Alice Ekirch offered an alternate reason for the killing:
Countess, Ekirch said, always blamed her mother for her own
marital problems and for holding back her father from a rising
career in country music.
night, when mother and daughter ran into each other in the
bathroom, Ekirch said, the daughter's pent-up rate took over.
The two began to fight, and when Dooley fell to the floor,
Countess kicked her so hard that it left shoe prints on her
mother's face and arm.
time she was flogging her mother, maybe she wasn't planning on
killing," Ekirch said. "But what other intent can you have
when you begin stomping on her?"
Family members left the courtroom
grousing with each other over whether Countess got what she
deserved. During her trial, Countess said most of her siblings
refused to help care for their sickly mother.
"Nobody knows what all she's been
through since my father died," said Countess' sister, Norma
Draper. "She's been under such stress, and with the
personality disorders ... I think she should have been
Countess moved to
Roanoke from Nevada in 1997 to care for her mother after her
father's death. But she had health troubles of her own, Draper
said, struggling with breast cancer, depression and borderline
to prosecutors, Countess usually mixed a number of pain
medications with different antidepressants, borrowing Paxil
from friends when she couldn't fill her own prescription.
The Paxil helped, but at times
Countess had to go without. Bagwell said Dooley regularly hid
the medication from her daughter. The night of their fight,
Countess said in court she was able to retrieve one 30 mg pill
after a week without medication.
Pharmacologist Kenneth Brasfield said
abruptly stopping regular doses of antidepressants can leave
people in a state of withdrawal, making them more aggressive
and possibly homicidal. Brasfield, who studied taped
interviews of Countess taken shortly after the killing and
spoke with her for an hour on the telephone, said she was
probably in a foggy state of mind that night.
Though she understood the difference
between right and wrong, Brasfield said Countess probably was
unable to act correctly.
uncertain, however, if Paxil was to blame. Countess previously
told police she had two shots of alcohol the night her mother
"It was less likely to be
alcohol than it was to be Paxil," Brasfield said.
Paxil representatives did not return
calls Monday afternoon seeking comment.
Copyright 2003 by The
Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may
not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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