Photo by Brian Giandelone
LAWRENCEVILLE — A doctor testified Tuesday that Ashley Schutt exhibits all the classic symptoms of battered person’s syndrome and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which factored not only into her husband’s slaying, but the “whopper” of a lie she told police.
Prosecutors argue those afflictions are no excuse for stabbing Greg Schutt nearly 40 times and bashing him with a hammer.
“I believe (Ashley) thought she was going to die that day, and even now sometimes wishes that she had,” testified Dr. Marti Loring, a clinical social worker and sociologist who interviewed Ashley and “collateral witnesses” at length.
Loring, a key defense witness, theorized that Ashley’s actions could be attributed to inadvertent “flailing” with a weapon, as a result of panic, and that the truth could lie in “gaps” of predawn July 25, 2009, that Ashley claims to not recall.
Ashley cooked up an elaborate lie about intruders who raped her and killed Greg as part of learned behavior she’d been using to cover for his abuse, Loring testified.
“I think there are things she wanted to protect him from,” she said.
In interviews, Loring said Ashley recalled a confrontation, then holding Greg’s body in her arms and searching for a phone, to no avail. Police have testified that Greg’s throat and wrists were slashed.
In his cross-examination, Stephen Fern, assistant district attorney, implied that Loring was a custom-made witness who was naturally in Ashley’s corner. Fern pointed out a fax from years ago that Loring had sent to an Augusta defense attorney asking for “suggestions.”
Loring told jurors her intent with the document, which was turned over to prosecutors, was to inquire about key points in that case and the length of a report she’d been asked to write.
“About once a year, a sharp (attorney) like yourself brings that up,” Loring told Fern in court. “That’s a fax I regret sending.”
In earlier testimony, Ashley’s father, Al Rompf, said the couple had separated four times during their nine-year marriage due to Greg’s “mistreatment.” When Ashley confided in her father that Greg had threatened to slit her throat, “I advised her that it was time to make a major decision,” Rompf testified.
Fern called attention to evidence that Ashley never filed a restraining order or called police, and that the abuse apparently went undiagnosed during dozens of exams and doctors visits.
Throughout Tuesday morning, defense attorney Thomas Clegg called a cast of family friends and associates who painted Ashley as a downtrodden but genuinely kind person who was saddled with a jealous, vindictive abuser.
“He was like, ‘I can’t live without her,’” testified Diedra Chavez, a friend from Illinois who roomed with the couple for years. In that time, Chavez said she never witnessed physical abuse, though verbal lashings by Greg were common.
“It was like a roller coaster ride,” Chavez said.
Debbie Ching, a friend of the Rompfs, told jurors she advised Ashley to seek help at a battered women’s shelter, or to stay with her, after reading disturbing accounts of spousal abuse in Ashley’s journal.
“I think she needed a friend,” Ching testified, “and she really didn’t have any.”
Ashley, the trial’s final witness, is expected to testify this morning. Presiding Superior Court Judge Debra Turner said closing arguments should commence after lunch.