Defense mounts case on Agan’s mental health

HUDSON—After gruesome details were testified to in court last week the prosecution rested its case January 18 and the defense commenced January 19, in the trial of David T. Agan, Jr. for murder, rape, incest and sex crimes.

Mr. Agan, 44, is charged with stabbing to death his estranged wife, Christina M. Agan, 37, of Kinderhook in the vestibule at the Valatie Medical Arts Building, 1301 River Street in the village, December 10, 2015 shortly before 2 p.m.

In addition to the first degree murder charge, a class A-1 felony, he is also being tried on 15 counts of third degree rape, 96 counts of third degree incest and 28 counts of third degree criminal sex act, all class E felonies.

Mr. Agan is represented by Dennis B. Schlenker of Albany on the murder charge and Ian Crimmins of the Public Defender’s Office on the remaining charges. District Attorney Paul Czajka is prosecuting the case with assistance from Assistant District Attorney Ryan Carty.

On Monday and Tuesday this week testimony concerned only the murder charge. Brian Daggett, M.D., of Kinderhook Medical Care, located in the Valatie Medical Arts building, took the stand Monday morning. He had been Mr. Agan’s primary care provider since 2010 and saw him professionally on December 9, 2015, the day before the murder.

At that time Mr. Agan told the physician he was under a lot of stress and that he wanted a prescription for Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug. Dr. Daggett knew that Mr. Agan had been diagnosed by mental health professionals with a variety of mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Daggett advised Mr. Agan to stay with his providers at the Columbia County Mental Health Center, that he was not comfortable prescribing medications for mental illness. Nevertheless, he gave Mr. Agan a two-week prescription for Xanax twice a day.

Dr. Daggett said that in his professional opinion, Mr. Agan was not “malingering” (pretending or exaggerating illness), but that he had serious mental illness, represented by multiple hospitalizations, suicide attempts, auditory hallucinations and run-ins with authorities.

Dr. Daggett said he was not familiar with the term “extreme emotional disturbance,” which is a legal term, not a medical diagnosis. Judge Koweek told the jury he would define this term for them.

Monday afternoon Arthur McGinn, M.D., a psychiatrist at the Greene County Mental Health Clinic in Cairo, took the stand. He said he worked for Columbia County Mental Health Center for two years, leaving in December 2015. He had seen Mr. Agan a total of 16 times, as an assigned patient, beginning in June 2013. Mr. Agan told Dr. McGinn that he had been beaten by both of his parents, and moved back and forth between his mother, who lives in Virginia, and his father, who lives in this area. “He painted severe childhood abuse, which resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder,” Dr. McGinn said.

The doctor defined PTSD as a severe trauma that comes from outside the victim, inflicted by others, and results in a person who relives the trauma and has cognitive and emotional consequences, considerable discomfort and occupational and social dysfunction.

Dr. McGinn said Mr. Agan also had intermittent explosive disorder, with outbursts of anger and violence “out of proportion to the provocation.”

In October of 2015, Mr. Agan told Dr. McGinn that he wanted to go off his medications. He had been on Xanax, Seroquel for mood stabilization and anger control, and Depakote, an anti-seizure medication that is also used for bipolar disorder. The doctor agreed that Mr. Agan could go off the medications.

With Mr. Agan off the medications the two met again in October and for a final time on November 19. At that point Dr. McGinn said he would not reschedule Mr. Agan; the patient should “call if you need me.”

Mr. Agan called on December 8, 2015 and said he wanted to go back on the medications. Since Dr. McGinn was scheduled to leave the center two days later he was not comfortable restarting Mr. Agan’s medications, the doctor testified. Mr. Agan did not want to see the recommended doctor and said he would get the medications from his primary care provider. “I was concerned that he should be treated by a psychiatrist or a psychiatric prescriber,” said Dr. McGinn.

Tuesday Dr. Thomas Qualtere took the stand for the day. He is a psychiatrist in private practice since 1989. Under questioning by Mr. Schlenker Dr. Qualtere said he was contacted by Mr. Agan’s previous attorney to “do an evaluation of [Mr. Agan’s] underlying mental status and underlying psychological issues.” Dr. Qualtere said he reviewed at least a thousand pages of records that documented Mr. Agan’s mental health treatment from his teens to the present, and he had two face-to-face meetings with Mr. Agan in October 2016 and February 2017.

Dr. Qualtere said he found the records and the history consistent with intermittent explosive disorder and with PTSD, which he described as a “life-threatening experience to oneself or loved ones that leads to stress, flashbacks, nightmares and an avoidance of reminders.” He had treated PTSD, he said.

Dr. Qualtere found the “most striking part” of the toxicology report at the time of the murder was the Xanax in Mr. Agan’s system, along with marijuana. As a tranquilizer, Xanax is disinhibiting, he said, similar to alcohol, “which means it would allow someone to do something that he wouldn’t do if he hadn’t been on the medication.”

December 3 to 7, 2015 was a “crucial” time frame, said Dr. Qualtere. Mr. and Ms. Agan had contact, including sexual. But the relationship declined and Mr. Agan was “very anxious” about it. On December 7 to 9 he could not reach Ms. Agan.

December 10 “he felt suicidal” and bought a rope to hang himself, according to Dr. Qualtere. Mr. and Ms. Agan met at Valatie Medical Arts, and she told him she was taking their children (a boy aged 14 and triplets, aged 8) to Illinois “with or without you.”

In Dr. Qualtere’s professional opinion, Mr. Agan suffered “an emotional disturbance so extreme as to result in his loss of self-control.” In the extreme emotional disturbance defense, which the doctor said he was familiar with, “it’s a reasonable explanation in the viewpoint of the defendant—not mine or anyone else’s.”

Stuart M. Kirschner, Ph.D., was scheduled to testify Wednesday morning. His writings about the extreme emotional disturbance defense were referred to on Monday and Tuesday.

The prosecution rests

On the final day of the prosecution’s evidence presentation Thursday, January 18, Jodi Stupplebeen, an LPN, who works in the Kinderhook office of Dr. Brian Daggett, where both Christina and David Agan were patients, told the court that Christina Agan confided she had a suspicion about “something going on” between her husband and his teenage daughter, who lived with the Agans.

The nurse said Ms. Agan told her she had arrived home one day to find her husband, David and his daughter, Ms. Agan’s stepdaughter, “under a blanket partially dressed.” When Ms. Agan confronted them, Mr. Agan “got upset and stormed out,” according to Ms. Stupplebeen, who said the conversation took place about six months prior to Ms. Agan’s death.

The nurse also testified that Mr. Agan came to the office December 9, 2015 for an appointment with Dr. Daggett to get a prescription because he was “having problems with anger” and was “afraid of getting into trouble.”

Several people who had encounters with Mr. Agan on the day of the crime or who provided police with video of Mr. Agan at various locations that day were called to the stand. Of particular interest was the transaction at the Walmart in East Greenbush, where Mr. Agan, still wearing his blood-soaked clothes, drove after the crime.

Video, narrated in court by State Police Investigator Andrew Behrens, the coordinator of investigative efforts in the case, shows Mr. Agan purchasing a pair of gray sweatpants and some bandages. He then leaves the store, gets in his Jeep in the parking lot, changes from his bloody jeans into the sweatpants and can be seen disposing of the jeans in a garbage receptacle outside the store. Mr. Agan took off the bloody black jacket he had been wearing, but did not throw it away. Police later found the jacket in the Jeep.

Mr. Agan drove away from the store just before 3 p.m. on the day of the crime and a little while later, around 3:20 p.m. was apprehended by police on Route 4 in East Greenbush.

Prior to resting his case near 5 p.m. Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Ryan Carty read another one of the lengthy rambling missives written by Mr. Agan to his daughter from jail. The letter graphically described a vigorous sexual encounter between him and his daughter that occurred while Mrs. Agan was asleep in the same bed. As in a prior letter read earlier, Mr. Agan talked about marrying his daughter and fathering a son with her. He signed the letter “I love you. Dad.”

The defense began its case Friday afternoon with Dr. Michael Weisberg, the chief of emergency services at Columbia Memorial Health’s multiple facilities.

Dr. Weisberg was working at the Valatie Rapid Care Center on December 8, 2015 when Mr. Agan arrived, asking to see a doctor because he felt “anxious” and “might lose control.”

Mr. Agan told the doctor he suffered from PTSD and bipolar disorder and was a patient at Columbia County Mental Health Center.

The doctor said he prescribed five .25 mg tablets of Xanax to Mr. Agan, which he was to take as needed until he could see his regular doctor and get his regular prescription of 1 mg tablets renewed.

The rest of Friday afternoon was taken up with protracted recorded phone calls Mr. Agan made from jail to his mother and sister. In one of the calls to his mother, Kathy Agan-Reynolds, Mr. Agan said he left the scene of the crime because he “was scared.” He also said he knew “for a fact” that authorities were not recording his phone calls from the jail, because otherwise he would be charged with first degree murder.

Following the phone call, the indictment against Mr. Agan was upgraded from to first degree murder from second degree murder.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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