Tyler Hadley sentencing hearing: Day 6 ends

Defense expert diagnosed him with major depression




Tyler Hadley was an immature youth who was severely depressed, didn't fit in, and had very low self-esteem.

Those were just a few of the reasons given by Dr. Kathleen Heide, an expert witness for the defense as to why he killed his parents more than two years ago, then threw a party with their bodies still inside.

Dr. Heide is a criminology professor who specializes in parricide which is the killing of a mother, father or close relative.

Dr. Heide, who works at the University of South Florida, said Tyler Hadley was not abused or neglected in any way, but at the time of the killing was clearly severely depressed and was drinking and doing drugs daily.

"He described his mom as 'motherly and loving' and his dad as a 'big teddy bear'," said Dr. Heide.

Heide saw Tyler Hadley six times over the past two years.  She said Hadley had the personality development of, at most, a 12-year-old.

"He's taking away the two people who loved him most. He had no emotional appreciation for that.  In addition, he didn't have any emotional appreciation for what this would do to his brother and his family," added Dr. Heide.
Still, Dr. Heide said Tyler shows remorse today not just for the killings, but for other things he had done to his parents like stealing and lying to them.

She says he has taken ownership of what happened.
Dr. Heide said Tyler told her he wanted to plead guilty to two counts of first degree murder because "that's what he did" but he first pleaded no contest on the advice of counsel.

Dr. Heide said there is hope for Tyler If he's treated, if the family stays in touch,  and if risk assessments are done.
Under cross examination, Dr. Heide admitted though that if he gets out, Tyler Hadley could kill again and that he wasn't being 100% honest with her.

She said during one of her first interactions with Tyler, he had three wishes: to get out of jail, to get his parents back, and to have lots of money.


Friday's recap

A nationally recognized expert on mental health took the stand Friday in the Tyler Hadley sentencing hearing.

Dr. Wade Myers, a professor of psychiatry at Brown University, testified that he was asked to do a psychiatric evaluation of Hadley by the public defender's office.

Myers said that Hadley was put on Prozac at age 10 and then Lexapro after showing signs of serious childhood depression.

The doctor said Hadley was "quite severely mentally ill" at the time his parents were killed and that he had thyroid and growth hormone issues.

Hadley has pleaded no contest to beating his parents to death with a hammer when he was 17 in 2011.

Hadley used alcohol and pot around the age of 15 and also tried cocaine, Ecstasy and cough syrup, said Myers.

Myers told the court that both of Tyler Hadley's parents were taking medicine for mental health issues.  His dad was being treated for anxiety, his mom for depression.

Before Hadley changed his plea last month, the defense had planned to use an insanity defense.
Myers told the court that many professionals had found Tyler Hadley had significant mental illness over years beginning around age 10.

He argued that Tyler's premature birth and small head circumference are risks for a whole host of problems later in life and that when he first met Hadley, he had major depression with what is called "psychotic features."

He added "Severe mental illness" is why a young man with good parents went and killed them. "At least in the month or so before he was arrested, he had developed delusional thought that had become very obsessional and very much a rumination that he needed to kill his parents and he needed to die."

Dr. Myers also said Tyler Hadley's use of alcohol and drugs was "him taking whatever he could get to get out of the state of mind he was in when he was not high."

The defense over the past three days has been trying to show why Hadley beat his parents to death with a hammer.

The hearing is in recess until Monday.


Thursday's recap

There was a mixture of the personal and the professional during Day 4 of the Tyler Hadley sentencing hearing Thursday.

Hadley's attorneys called several doctors to the stand, including some that were contacted by telephone.

His pediatrician testified to the various medicines Hadley took over the years.  A pediatric endocrinologist talked about Tyler's thyroid issues and growth hormones he was prescribed.

The first witness on the stand was Carmela Johnson, a close friend of Mary Jo Hadley who taught with her at Village Green Elementary in Port St. Lucie.

Johnson says she teaches in Mary Jo's classroom to feel closer to her.

She said she knew Tyler for many years and that he often exhibited odd behavior and was constantly looking for reassurance. "He always was saying odd things like 'You love me mom? Do you love me?'  If she ever compared him to someone else, 'Do you love them better than me, mom?  Do you love them better than me?’"

Under cross examination, Johnson admitted she saw Tyler and Mary Jo at the mall not long before the murders and Tyler seemed fine.

Mike and Cynthia Hadley, Tyler Hadley's aunt and uncle also testified.

They talked about being on vacation together in their Georgia cabin the week before the murders.

Mike Hadley said he would hear Tyler pacing outside late at night and that Tyler was making himself throw up.

He recalled a drawing Tyler made. "He had colored a house and it was on fire.  I said, ‘Tyler that's kind of heavy what's that about?’ and he said ‘that's the way I get rid of my stress.’  I said ‘what kind of stress could you have?  You're only 17-years-old.’ 

Cynthia was asked whether Tyler was ever violent. “No, never." Did he love his parents? she was asked. “Absolutely.  We thought he… yes."

Also this afternoon, one of the first responding police officers to the Hadley home the night of the murders said the look he saw on Tyler Hadley's face was a look he had never seen in law enforcement and made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

Wednesday's Recap 

There was tearful testimony Wednesday from family members as the defense began presenting its case in the Tyler Hadley sentencing hearing. 

Maggie DiVittorio says her grandson was battling the odds from the beginning.  She said Tyler Hadley was born premature...a 3 pound 10 ounce bag of bones at birth.

The 87-year-old nurse, who just retired last month, said Tyler was a loving child.

"Never left us without giving us a hug and giving us and 'I love you' and 'I love you grand pap, I love you grandma,' " said DiVittorio.

But DiVittorio said Tyler had self-esteem issues and that he told her he was always a step below everyone else.  She knew Tyler was on anti-depressants at age 10.

"He wanted to have friends, he wanted to have friends and I think he always thought he never had a friend," added DiVittorio.

Tyler Hadley wiped his eyes twice during his grandmother's testimony where she talked about the number of medications he was on, and about the times she comforted him.

DiVittorio broke down at the end of her testimony recalling the last time she saw her daughter and son-in-law alive.  It was the night before the murders and the family shared a dinner out.

Below: Photo of Maggie DiVittorio, Mary Jo Hadley's mother

Earlier in the day, the first defense witness Dr. Randy Otto, a forensic psychologist, testified that the study of adolescence only dates back about a century.

"It's a tough job to look at someone as a teenager and make a judgment as to how they're going to be significantly further out," said Dr. Otto.

Under cross examination, Dr. Otto said his personal opinion is that it should be a rare case where a juvenile is sentenced to life without parole.

Dr. Otto also said there was no "bright line" psychologically between adults and juveniles.

Before court ended for the day, one of Tyler Hadley's cousins says Tyler realizes the toll this case has taken on two families.

One of the best friends of Mary Jo Hadley said Mary Jo was not concerned for her safety but more concerned that Tyler would commit suicide.

In its opening statement, the defense said they will answer "why" Tyler Hadley killed his parents and prove that he is distinguishable from an adult who would have committed the murders of his parents.

They're hoping that Hadley, who pleaded no contest to the crimes, will one day be eligible for parole.


Tuesday's recap

The prosecution has rested in the sentencing hearing for Tyler Hadley, the Port St. Lucie man who pleaded no contest to killing his parents in 2011.

During testimony Tuesday a crime scene investigator showed photos inside the home and held the framing hammer used to kill Blake and Mary Jo Hadley in 2011.

Right before it was displayed, some family members left the courtroom. Others covered their faces.

Pictures of the crime scene were also shown.

The associate medical examiner said Mary Jo Hadley took 36 blows to the head and back.  Blake Hadley was hit 39 times.

"She was alive during every part of the attack,” said associate medical examiner Linda Rush O'Neil.

The hammer was found between the bodies of Blake and Mary Jo.  Those bodies were covered by debris as a party raged on outside the master bedroom.

Neighbor Kimberly Thieben was at the party. "There was a rumor going around that he (Tyler) wanted to kill himself."

Thieben said Hadley made no mention of the crime that night, but the day before said something about his future.  "All of a sudden, said he'd be going away for 60 years.  I didn't push him on why because if he was ready to say why he would have told me and I wasn't going to push him."

In court, a pair of pruning shears was also shown.  They were found in Tyler Hadley's room.

Hadley confessed to one of his friends that the night before the murders, he held the shears over his parents as they slept, but could not go through with killing them.

Late in the day Hadley’s defense attorney tried to argue that the prosecution didn’t prove Hadley was an adult at the time of the crime and so the judge should not consider life without parole as a possible sentence. The judge denied the motion.

The hearing resumes at 1 p.m. Wednesday.


Monday's recap

In opening statements Monday, the prosecution said the killing of Blake and Mary Jo Hadley was a cold, calculated premeditated act.

The defense did not offer any opening so the prosecution began calling witnesses.

The first witness to the stand was Tyler Hadley's older brother Ryan who is six years older than Tyler.

He was on the stand for nearly an hour and said he had his brother had a very close relationship growing up. "If me and him weren't going somewhere together, we were in my bedroom watching a movie, watching Family Guy, doing something together," Ryan said.

Hadley said his parents were very loving and generous. He testified that as Tyler got older, he began hanging with a bad crowd and he would steal his parents debit card and at times take his father's truck keys without permission, "He started sneaking out a lot, he would go out the back door or go out his window.  Sometimes they would catch him, sometimes they wouldn't."

Ryan said his parents put Tyler in rehab and installed a tracking device on his phone which he said really upset him.

At the end of his testimony, Ryan Hadley was asked what he wants to see happen to his brother. "I guess what I want is for him to get the maximum penalty possible, which I understand is life in prison without the possibility of parole," testified Ryan Hadley.

The state also called Mary Jo Hadley's niece who said Tyler Hadley looked fine at a family dinner the night before the murders.

The next two witnesses to the stand were acquaintances of Tyler Hadley.

The first was a friend who said Hadley complained about his parents due to the fact that he was in rehab and that he couldn't go out.

The state wants the judge to issue the maximum penalty of two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Because Hadley was 17-years-old when his parents were killed, he is not eligible for the death penalty.

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