Adrian McKenzie, who killed his mother by hammering her in the head, was yesterday sentenced to 12 years in prison for manslaughter.
McKenzie, 39, was initially indicted for murdering Ethel Andrews in November 2010, in Sand Creek, Rupununi but pleaded not guilty. Instead, he copped to the lesser offence of manslaughter.
It was the state’s case that on November 16, 2010, McKenzie went home in a rage and started arguing with his grandfather and his mother intervened. The heated argument which soon ensued among the three subsequently ended in Andrews being brutally attacked by her son, who hammered her in the head.
After it was brought to the court’s attention that McKenzie has had a history of mental illness, he was referred for psychiatric evaluation, before his plea to the unlawful killing was accepted.
Psychiatrist Dr Bhiro Harry, who has been treating the man since 2007, said that he has in the past exhibited behavioural patterns consistent with unsoundness of mind.
The court heard that among these symptoms were agitation, disregard for personal hygiene, laughing and talking to himself, and a feeling which he said McKenzie had previously described to him as if “things were controlling him.”
According to the doctor, he first came into contact with the accused years before the killing, when his sister took him to be evaluated after observing the manner in which he behaved.
Dr Harry said that while McKenzie has not fully recovered, his condition has seen improvement and he is currently on treatment and remains a patient of the psychiatric clinic of the Georgetown Public Hospital.
He said too that the accused has been undergoing psycho-social rehabilitation.
It was against this background that Harry said the accused was fit to plead. During his most recent interaction with McKenzie on Monday, the doctor recalled him being quiet and cooperative, while also noting that he gave appropriate answers to questions asked.
A probation report presented to the court, revealed that because of his mental disorder, McKenzie’s relatives were often fearful of him injuring anyone.
He was described as being “detached from reality,” and having been a user of marijuana.
According to the report, relatives said that the resourceful and industrious Andrews is greatly missed.
Regarding McKenzie’s attitude towards the offence, Probation Officer Pamela Atwell, said that he has vehemently denied killing his mother, or even knowing who Andrews was.
Social Worker attached to the prison service Tessa McGarrell said that since his admission in 2010, McKenzie has been housed in a block for mentally-ill prisoners. She said he exhibits passive behaviour and noted that prison officers said he is guilty of no infractions of prison rules and regulations.
McGarrell said that apart from being treated for mental illness, the prisoner also receives treatment for epilepsy.
The social worker said that in her interaction with McKenzie, he told her he has little recollection of events leading up to the killing.
Prior to sentencing, defence attorney Maxwell McKay told Justice James Bovell-Drakes that there was not much he could add, given the reports presented to the court, but he begged for lenience on his client’s behalf.
In his remarks, the judge said the task of sentencing was a difficult one for him, because of the mental issues involved. He noted that while he heard the different reports presented, the circumstances of the matter were “discouraging,” given the findings of the pathologist.
The judge pointed out to McKenzie that it was his mother’s life which he had taken—the woman who would have carried him for a number of months, and brought him into the world. On the other hand, however, Justice Bovell-Drakes said that he had to impose a “reasonable” penalty—one which would facilitate Dr Harry’s continuing evaluation of McKenzie, who is still a patient of the psychiatric clinic.
Giving weight to what the psychiatrist had earlier said, the judge noted that the prisoner’s continuing evaluation is important for his reintegration to society.
Referring to an aspect of the doctor’s report which stated that there is need in Guyana for proper facilities to accommodate mentally-ill persons, the judge said that such issues have to be addressed with urgency.
McKenzie, a former electrician, was subsequently sentenced to 12 years behind bars, with provision that he be taken to clinic twice per month, as requested by Dr Harry.
Wishing him well, the judge admonished McKenzie, who nodded in agreement, to do his best and stay away from problems and all psychotropic substances, so that one day he may be able to meaningfully contribute to society
Testing the prisoner, the judge asked him whether he understood what he had told him, and to repeat same, which he did. McKenzie added that he was sorry for all that had happened. “I am glad that you are,” the judge said, as he encouraged the man to “stay on the straight and narrow path.”
McKenzie’s sister, Samantha Andrews, who was described in the reports as being supportive to her brother, was present at court yesterday.
The state’s case was presented by Prosecutor Mandell Moore, at the High Court in Georgetown.