Maria Garcia-Pellon sat quietly in court as her family and friends recounted what they described as her delusional behavior leading up to the night she stabbed her husband, former University of Pennsylvania basketball star Matthew White.
"You are going to take a trip through the depths of mental illness," said defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom in his opening statement before Delaware County Court Judge Kevin Kelly, who will decide Garcia-Pellon's fate.
The nonjury trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday.
On Feb. 10, 2013, Garcia-Pellon, 54, of Nether Providence, allegedly killed her husband of 25 years as he lay sleeping in bed. She admitted the slaying to police.
Garcia-Pellon, a longtime teacher's aide at a local school, is charged with first- and third-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime.
White was the starting center on the 1979 Penn team that reached the NCAA Final Four. He was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA but played professional basketball in Spain, where he met Garcia-Pellon.
Garcia-Pellon first sought treatment in 2001 when she believed that terrorists and the Mafia were after her, Bergstrom said. She was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder and paranoia, and in 2007, she attempted suicide and was hospitalized. She took medication and saw a psychologist, he said.
"When she stopped the medications, this tragedy occurred," said Bergstrom.
The couple's two children - now adults - testified that when their father suffered a stroke in December 2009, Garcia-Pellon was by his side every day.
"She did everything to help him and be there," said Anna White Garcia.
Rebecca Bonner, a friend, testified that Garcia-Pellon visited her on Feb. 7, 2013, and said that she was concerned for her two children and that the government was using Facebook to spy on her.
"I became alarmed," Bonner said.
Three days later, Garcia-Pellon showed up at the home of friends Scott and Colleen Shepard, saying her Internet service had been hacked, her phone was bugged, and the Chinese were controlling everything, they testified. The Shepards contacted White, who took his wife to Riddle Memorial Hospital. She was discharged with an appointment for follow-up treatment with a psychiatrist the next day.
That night she retrieved two kitchen knives, hid them by her bed, and, when White fell asleep, killed him.
Two expert forensic psychiatrists, one for the defense and one for the prosecution, agreed that Garcia-Pellon suffers from schizoaffective disorder, but disagreed on whether she knew at the time that what she did was wrong.
Stephen Mechanick said Garcia-Pellon feared that if she did not kill her husband, he would kill her. "It wasn't really the Matt she loved at that point. It was the person taken over by others and she had to stop him," he said.
Countered John O'Brien, "She was aware what she did was wrong and could get arrested."