WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Christian Lepore will be sent to a state hospital after a Superior Court judge Wednesday found him not guilty by reason of insanity in the murder of a West Greenwich man.
Prosecutors called 14 witnesses during Lepore’s insanity trial, including law enforcement officials, paramedics and co-workers. In addition to the murder charge, Lepore was also accused of assaulting three officers, a state trooper and the trooper’s K-9 officer who responded to the scene.
“Although there is no question that Christian Lepore is factually responsible for the horrific act, the Court has found the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity. While we respect this decision, we recognize that it brings no comfort or sense of justice to the O’Neil family. Our continued thoughts are with Mr. O’Neil’s wife and family, who have endured great loss and heartbreak from the day the defendant came upon their yard to today’s decision,” Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, the defense did not dispute the fact that Lepore killed 62-year-old John O’Neil last May. They also did not dispute that Lepore attacked a number of police officers and a police dog, a spokesperson said.
Instead, prosecutors said the ruling focused on whether Lepore could be held responsible for what he did. According to Justice Brian Stern, the evidence in the trial indicated that Lepore’s “mental disability resulted in a substantial impairment of his capacity to the point where Defendant could not appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or confirm his conduct to the requirements of the law.”
The Attorney General’s Office said when a defendant is found not guilty by reason of insanity, there are still legal mechanisms in place to assure the public’s safety.
According to a spokesperson, under the law, Lepore will be committed to a state institution for observation. The director of the state’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) will then have 20 days to determine if Lepore poses a danger to the public. Following that assessment, BHDDH will issue a report to prosecutors who will then present the findings at a hearing.
If, after that hearing, Lepore is deemed dangerous, he would be committed to BHDDH and would not be eligible for parole. The only way Lepore would be released is if BHDDH recommends it and the court approves it.
During the bench trial, troopers testified they thought Lepore, 36, could have been on drugs when prosecutors said he killed O’Neil. According to previous testimony, Lepore tested positive for both marijuana and oxycodone on preliminary drug tests. Later drug tests on Lepore reportedly came back negative. One trooper also said the defendant might be mentally ill.
According to a defense attorney, a co-worker of Lepore testified that Lepore was pacing and talking about government conspiracies involving aliens just hours before prosecutors said he killed O’Neil. The defense also called a forensic psychiatry expert to the stand who said Lepore has paranoid schizophrenia.