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Trial begins for SK teen accused of murdering his neighbor
Jury selection began on Monday in the trial of Daniel James Mustard, a South Kitsap teen accused of killing his 87-year-old neighbor, Ruby Andrews, on April 5, 2009.
Mustard pleaded innocent by insanity to the murder.
“I cannot defend this act. No one can,” said Mustard’s lawyer Bryan G. Hershman. “It’s god-awful, and it’s a tragedy, but that’s not what this story is.
“This is a mental health problem,” he said, “that was accelerating and becoming more acute during a period when we can confirm that he was 100 percent sober and not taking drugs.”
Mustard, Hershman said, was in a period of “psychiatric crisis” so severe that he was taken to the emergency room at Harrison Medical Center nine days before the murder, according to Hershman.
“Even the state’s expert witness will testify that, had he been in the emergency room, he would have involuntarily committed my client,” Hershman said. “That ought to be a strong hint what this case is about.”
“I am still suffering from a mood disorder, bipolar disorder, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder with psychosis, generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks, psychosis and polysubstance use/dependence,” Mustard wrote in his plea.
The death also caused psychological trauma for Andrews’ husband, Earl Andrews, and her son, Brian Andrews, according to court documents.
“Knowing this lady for 67 years, and to lose her the way I did is almost more than I can explain,” wrote her husband. “Depression, anxiety, grief and crying on the inside ... very close to going crazy.”
Andrews’ son felt similarly.
“Since 4-5-09,” he wrote, “my father and I have not smiled or laughed. We didn’t celebrate Christmas or birthdays.”
“(Mustard) has taken the joy out of life for my father and I,” Brian Andrews said. “It’s more like my father and I are just waiting to die.”
Earl and Brian Andrews were the first to discover Ruby Andrews’ body after she was killed.
The two arrived at about 4:40 p.m. and discovered Andrews lying on her back on the bathroom floor with a pool of blood around her neck and several other stab wounds on her body.
They also noticed that her 1993 white Cadillac, a firearm and some $100 bills had been stolen.
Mustard allegedly picked up several younger friends at a Port Orchard grocery store in a white Cadillac shortly after the slaying.
He showed them cell phone pictures of a dead woman with gray hair lying on a white floor, and “told them that is what happens when you mess with him,” according to documents from the Sheriff’s Office.
One of Mustard’s friends asked what he would do if he was caught, and he allegedly responded, “How bad could it be? She was an 87-year-old lady.”
As Mustard described the slaying to his friends, he seemed as though “it was no big deal and just normal conversation,” although “his eyes were wide and his hands were shaking,” the friends said.
In additon to insanity, Mustard’s lawyer will also argue his client suffered from “diminished capacity” at the time of the slaying.
Both conditions indicate reduced mental state, but “diminished capacity” pertains specifically to the time that the crime was committed.
Mustard’s legal fees will be paid by the public.
“I have no assets or income of any sort, let alone sufficient funds to pay for trial expenses,” Mustard wrote in a declaration for order directing disbursement of public funds. “My entire defense has been funded by my parents. I am aware that my parents have no other funds available to pay for trial expenses.”