Opposing counsel and experts agreed that Maria Garcia-Pellon was mentally ill when she killed her husband, former University of Pennsylvania basketball star Matt White, and the judge said Wednesday the state's evidence "does not allow for a guilty verdict" on the first- or third-degree murder counts.
Delaware County Court Judge Kevin Kelly did not issue a decision and deferred any verdict in the nonjury trial until Tuesday. But beyond the first- and third-degree charges the remaining options would be not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, guilty but mentally ill of voluntary manslaughter, or guilty but mentally ill of first-degree murder.
Early on Feb. 11, 2013, Garcia-Pellon acknowledges, she fatally stabbed her husband of 25 years as he lay sleeping in their Nether Providence Township home.
"The reality is, for a moment of time ... this woman descended into the abyss of insanity," said defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom in his closing argument.
Bergstrom also was the attorney for John E. du Pont, who was found guilty but mentally ill for killing Olympic wrestler David Schultz in 1996.
White and Garcia-Pellon, who have two adult children who have attended the trial, had met in Spain where White played professional basketball. He was the starting center on the 1979 Penn team that reached the NCAA Final Four and had been drafted into the NBA.
In 2001, Garcia-Pellon, now 54, a longtime teacher's aide at a local school, sought treatment after suffering delusions, Bergstrom said. In 2007 she attempted suicide and was hospitalized, and she was on medication until 11 months before the crime.
On Feb. 10, Garcia-Pallon went to the home of Colleen and Scott Shepherd and said she was worried that the Chinese were controlling everything and that her Internet service had been hacked and her phone bugged, according to testimony.
They contacted White who brought her to Riddle Memorial Hospital. She was discharged with an appointment for follow-up treatment with a psychiatrist the next day.
That night Garcia-Pellon retrieved two kitchen knives, hid them by her bed, and, when White fell asleep, killed him. She later told doctors she was worried that White would kill her to prevent her from getting the word out that an attack similar to the Sandy Hook school shootings in December 2012 would soon occur.
Hours after the killing, Garcia-Pellon showed up at the home of her friend Betty Ann Wilson and said she had slain her husband because he was looking at child pornography. No pornographic images were found on any of the computers in the home, detectives testified.
Garcia-Pellon has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
"She knew what she did was wrong, she knew she had to call the police," said Assistant District Attorney Kathleen Magee.
Magee said that if Garcia-Pellon believed White was going to kill her, she would have told Wilson and the police that was her motive.
"You are ascribing rational thought to somebody your own expert says was psychotic and delusional," Kelly said.