When David Tarloff fatally stabbed psychologist Kathryn Faughey to death in her New York office and seriously injured her colleague, psychiatrist Kent D. Shinbach, on February 12, 2008, nobody suspected that a long legal odyssey was about to begin. And yet the 45-year-old Tarloff is now facing his third trial seeking to resolve a question that has stymied previous juries: was he sane enough to know right from wrong?
Tarloff, a chronic psychiatric patient with a long history of hospitalizations, had gone to the office of Dr. Shinbach to rob him so he could have money to move his invalid mother to Hawaii. His plan apparently involved forcing the psychiatrist to withdraw $50,000 from an ATM and then kidnapping his mother to Hawaii where they could live together in a villa. After purchasing knives and a mallet, Tarloff went to the East 79th Street office and asked to see Dr. Shinbach who was already busy with another patient. Tarloff then ducked into Dr. Faughey's office where she was working alone. In what investigators referred to as a "furious swirl of violence", he then stabbed the 56-year-old psychologist repeatedly. The sound of her screams brought Dr. Shinbach into her office where he was attacked as well. Though he survived the attack, the 70-year-old psychiatrist was left in critical condition. Tarloff was later arrested and charged with murder.
Despite a diagnosis of schizophrenia and lengthy psychiatric history, prosecutors are disputing that he was mentally ill at the time of the attack and insist that he should receive a prison sentence. During his first hearing in 2010, a mistrial was declared because a psychotic episode led to his being hospitalized. His hearing last year led to a deadlocked jury and a mistrial that had some jurors apologizing to the Faughey family afterward. As David Tarloff's third trial begins, the question of his mental state at the time of the killing seems as perplexing as ever.
While his defense attorneys describe him as a "sick individual" who had been off his psychiatric medication at the time of the killing, assistant district attorney Evan Krutoy stressed that Tarloff had carefully planned his robbery of Dr. Shinbach and had killed Kathryn Faughey because she was "an obstacle" who had gotten in his way. “He knew what he was doing was wrong,” the prosecutor said. “He knew what he wanted and he took it by force." His defense attorney, Frederick L. Sosinsky on the other hand, states that Tarloff was actively delusional at the time and had later insisted that God had spoken to him and sanctioned the violence. The various trials have also dealt with conflicting expert testimony presented by both sides.
While Tarloff often seems perplexed over the court proceedings attempting to determine his fate, Kathryn Faughey's family members are still waiting for this long legal ordeal to end. “I hope the jury sees through the performance by the defense,” the victim’s brother, Michael Faughey, said in an interview with the New York Times. “We have to relive Feb. 12, 2008, every single day of these trials.”