LAWRENCEVILLE -- So advanced is Westley Strellis' math and engineering acumen, he was employed by a repair shop to troubleshoot electronic schematics on BMWs and Mercedes Benzes when he was 15 years old, his father testified Thursday.
His alleged involvement with electronics of a different sort brought the 23-year-old Lawrenceville man before a judge on felony charges.
Strellis is accused of smashing 29 high-dollar televisions with an Easton baseball bat in a bizarre outburst Feb. 10 in the electronics section of a Lilburn Wal-Mart. The incident has since gained viral popularity on YouTube and other online venues.
In a probable cause hearing, Strellis' family blamed the rampage on a culprit authorities hadn't seen coming -- Asperger's syndrome, a disorder that impairs social interaction and affects emotional stability.
Arrested at the scene -- his wrists calmly held up and offered to officers for handcuffing -- Strellis was charged with second-degree criminal damage to property. His bond amount, $22,200, was the estimated value of the flat-screen televisions -- and too much for his family to cobble together, said defense attorney Guy Camuso.
Strellis father, Keith Strellis, pleaded with the court to reduce the bond amount. He testified his son has never been arrested or exhibited violence of any kind, and has undergone five in-patient stays at area psychiatric facilities in recent years.
Westley Strellis was recently pursuing math and engineering degrees at Georgia Gwinnett College, but had fallen into an emotional comatose. He's had trouble rising from bed, requiring him to stay out a semester at his father's urging, Keith Strellis testified.
The symptoms have been manifesting themselves since childhood.
Police found a bottle of Effexor anti-depressants prescribed to Westley in his possession. That and another medication work only to a certain extent, his father said.
"This is something that affects people that are very, very smart," Keith Strellis said.
"What he is accused of ... was not intended toward any living, conscious being."
Keith Trellis said he has prearranged an in-patient hospital stay at an Atlanta mental health treatment center, should his son's bond be lessened. Westley Strellis intently watched the proceedings in green jail garb, wearing spectacles and short, mussed hair.
Magistrate Court Judge Mark Layng voiced concerns about the public, violent nature of the television beatings, but ultimately reduced bond to $10,000.
Stipulations of that bond restrict Westley from visiting any Wal-Mart in Gwinnett County, Layng ordered. He also must provided notification to the District Attorney's office upon his admission and release from hospital care.
Keith Strellis told the judge his son will enter either a residential or outpatient program upon his hospital release.
"In time, with treatment, (the syndrome) can be dealt with, and they can lead very productive lives," he said.