Judge says man was insane when he killed mother, aunt
By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer
By Ken Kobayashi
A 22-year-old Kailua man who was acquitted by reason of insanity yesterday for murdering his mother and aunt by stabbing them and setting them afire was committed to the Hawai'i State Hospital for an indefinite period.
City prosecutors said the outcome of the case is fair and hope it will be a long time before Micah White will be released, while White's attorney hopes he will be treated and someday be free.
Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall rendered the insanity acquittal ruling after mental health experts reported White was under the delusion that the two women were vampires and out to kill him.
White was charged with first-degree murder for repeatedly stabbing his mother, Kerry White, 48, and his aunt, Sharon White, 58, and setting them afire by torching his family's one-story home at Kainui Drive on April 5, 2004.
Crandall committed White to the Kane'ohe facility because he poses a danger to the community.
Under a U.S. Supreme Court decision, defendants must be released if they are no longer mentally ill or dangerous. In Hawai'i, defendants acquitted by insanity of murder charges usually remain at the hospital for years. One man acquitted of a rape and murder in the 1970s remains at the facility.
"We're going to fight to keep him in," city Deputy Prosecutor Franklin Pacarro said. "If he really is the way they say he is, who knows when he thinks someone in a restaurant is a vampire, and starts stabbing someone."
Deputy Public Defender Susan Arnett said she doesn't know how long White will be committed.
"The hope is he'll get the appropriate treatment and someday will be released," she said.
But she said White must cope with what he did to the two women he loved. With medication, White now realizes the women weren't vampires, although he had strongly believed in the delusion, Arnett said.
"It's something he's going to have to continue to come to terms with," Arnett said. "I think at times it's almost more than he can bear to comprehend."
Pacarro said his office could have countered the insanity defense by showing that White was on drugs at the time or shortly before the fire. "We tried to look for evidence," he said. "We couldn't prove it."
White was examined by three court-appointed mental health experts, another hired by the prosecution and a fifth hired by the defense. His diagnosis included schizophrenia. All concluded White's mental illness rendered him incapable of knowing right from wrong or controlling himself in accordance with the law, the legal test for insanity.
The prosecution and defense agreed to submit to the judge written facts of what White did to the women and the findings by the experts. The lawyers agreed to allow the judge to render the verdict.
The mother was stabbed nine times in the neck and chest, according to the written facts. She also suffered two fractured ribs and a fractured left upper arm. The burns covered 80 percent of her body.
The aunt was stabbed nine times in the chest, hands and arms. She suffered burns over 50 percent of her body.
Psychiatrist Kosta Stojanovich, one of the three court-appointed experts, reported White suffered from delusions that the world was filled with vampires, devils and spirits who were threatening him. He believed that vampires were closing in on him and his mother and aunt were among those creatures, the psychiatrist reported.
Stojanovich wrote White assaulted the women with a "sharpened drum stick.''
Samuel White, Micah's father, who lost his wife and sister, was supportive of his son. He gave statements to police, but decided not to deal with the prosecutor's office when he realized they wanted to give his son a life sentence without parole instead of "the help he needed," Arnett said.
"I'm very relieved," the father said in a statement through his lawyer. "Now Micah will get the attention he needs."
Micah White did not speak during the hearing, but wiped his eyes and bowed his head at various times. He became emotional when Pacarro detailed the crimes, Arnett said.
Micah White did not say anything about what he thought of the outcome of the case, she said.
"But when the judge made her determination, he grabbed my hand and said, 'Thank you.' "
White has been in custody at the O'ahu Community Correctional Center. He will be transferred to the hospital this week.
Reach Ken Kobayashi at firstname.lastname@example.org.