A convicted triple killer from Chicago accused of murdering five women in the Southland suffered multiple symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, making him prone to outbursts of anger, defense attorneys argued Tuesday as they attempted to build a case of second-degree murder, which would halt any chance to put the defendant on death row.
Andrew Urdiales, 53, was sentenced to death in Illinois for the murders of three prostitutes there, but was re-sentenced to life in prison after capital punishment was outlawed in Illinois. In California, he is charged with five counts of murder with a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait, so he if he is convicted the trial will enter a penalty phase in which jurors will decide whether to recommend the ultimate punishment or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On Monday, Senior Deputy District Attorney Matt Murphy ridiculed defense expert testimony, pointing to what he considered various contradictions.
Urdiales attorney Denise Gragg argued to jurors that the case for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is the result of “a whole cluster of professionals who were looking at Mr. Urdiales from different angles.”
Gragg argued that Urdiales’ mother had a consistent “pattern” of drinking often, and she continued to do so during her pregnancy. She favored Whiskey Sours, Gragg said.
“It was an era where people were not aware at all” of the dangers of drinking while pregnant, Gragg said.
The older the mother, and the more children she has given birth to, heightens the risks of drinking during pregnancy, Gragg said. Urdiales was the youngest of five.
Urdiales has a “normal IQ,” but his academics in school lagged below what was expected, which is a symptom of the disorder, Gragg argued. The defendant’s math skills remained at a sixth-grade level, she said.
Urdiales’ siblings said he had a tendency to “zone out,” with one saying the TV could be turned off for 20 minutes and Urdiales would continue to stare at it, Gragg said.
The evidence of angry outbursts included his killing of his miniature pet poodle, Rufus, when he was a child, Gragg said. Urdiales killed the pet after suffering persistent teasing from neighborhood kids who called him a “sissy” when they’d see him walking the dainty dog, Gragg said.
Gragg cited how Urdiales felt “betrayed” and lashed out angrily at some friends for putting a prank ice cube with a fly in it in a drink. The disproportionate response to the jest is a symptom of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, Gragg argued.
Urdiales also showed signs of obsessive compulsive disorder, according to some experts, she argued. For instance, he had a habit of smelling each bite of food before eating it, she said.
The defendant also had difficulties with social interactions. He spent four years seeing a psychologist at the Veterans Administration in Chicago discussing how he consistently felt like an “outsider looking in,” Gragg said.
Urdiales’ troubles usually began when he was promoted or given added responsibility, Gragg argued. It was then that he would experience angry outbursts that would get him fired or disciplined, she argued.
Urdiales enlisted in the Marines, but had to try twice and barely made it in the second time because of low test scores, Gragg said. He did well in the “structured environment” of the Marines, but then got in trouble when he was promoted, she said, adding he dropped out of guard school while in the military.
Urdiales got fired from a security guard position after he was named a union steward because of the added stress from the new responsibilities, Gragg said.
“This is consistent with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder,” Gragg said.
His mother’s drinking left damage to the part of the brain that governs emotions, Gragg said.
Urdiales’ other attorney, Ken Morrison, said his client had a remarkable memory for details of his victims, except for the moment when he killed them because he would lapse into a fog that left him feeling detached.
Urdiales is accused of killing:
–23-year-old Robbin Brandley as she walked to her car following a concert Jan. 18, 1986, at Saddleback College;
–29-year-old Julie McGhee on July 17, 1988, in Cathedral City;
–31-year-old Maryann Wells on Sept. 25, 1988, in San Diego;
–20-year-old Tammie Erwin on April 16, 1989, in Palm Springs; and
–32-year-old Denise Maney on March 11, 1995, in Palm Springs.
Defense attorneys will conclude their arguments on Wednesday. Prosecutors will then present their rebuttal before the case is handed to jurors.
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