Sunday, September 25, 2022

Sanity in question for man accused of murdering mother

A psychologist’s ethics and raw case notes were at the center of a debate in York-Poquoson Circuit Court Tuesday during a pre-trial hearing for a man accused of stabbing his mother to death.

Ronnie Lavender Dovbish (Photo courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)
Ronnie Lavender Dovbish (Photo courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)

A March 22 order for an independent evaluation of the sanity of Ronnie Lavender Dovbish, 22, caused controversy in the courtroom Tuesday, as clinical psychiatrist Kevin McWilliams contested turning over his raw notes to another psychologist, Leigh Hagan.

Hagan was asked to provide the court with a second opinion about whether or not Dovbish was sane on March 4, 2014 when police say he killed his mother, 40-year-old Heather Perkins, in their Yorkshire Downs home. He was 19 years old at the time.

Police say Dovbish stabbed Perkins three times after choking her. He reported her death to 911 dispatchers, saying “oh by the way, I did it,” and alluded to police that “past memories” were to blame, according to documents filed in York-Poquoson Circuit Court.

McWilliams issued a report that said he believes Dovbish was insane at the time of the crime, said York-Poquoson Commonwealth’s Attorney Benjamin Hahn.

McWilliams testified Tuesday that the prosecution has a right to get a second opinion about Dovbish’s sanity, but he doesn’t believe it is ethically responsible for him to give Hagan his raw notes.

“There’s a high probability that these notes could be misinterpreted,” McWilliams testified. “I don’t care if you find him sane, insane or somewhere in between – I just want it done fairly.”

Hahn argued that Hagan needs to read McWilliams’ notes to determine how the doctor arrived at his conclusion.

“You want to be the person who filters [the information],” Hahn said to McWilliams during cross examination.

McWilliams argued that his raw case notes wouldn’t do Hagan much good, especially when there are other ways to learn about Dovbish – namely by interviewing him and his family.

Hahn asked McWilliams to review Hagan’s 11-page resume while on the stand, asking him if Hagan seemed qualified.

“I don’t think we’re here to debate about the ethical standards of psychologists,” McWilliams said. “Don’t introduce a problem you can’t take back.”

York-Poquoson Circuit Court Judge Richard Rizk ordered McWilliams give Hagan the notes, giving him two weeks to hand them over. He also tentatively scheduled a jury trial for the case on Jan. 26 and 27 of 2017.

The case is schedule to come back before Rizk on Nov. 15 for a status check.

Mayfield can be reached at 352-431-9612.

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