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Fate of confessed SPU shooter may boil down to doctors’ analysis of his mental state

Aaron Ybarra shows how he pointed his shotgun at students on the Seattle Pacific University campus on June 5, 2014.

Aaron Ybarra shows how he pointed his shotgun at students on the Seattle Pacific University campus on June 5, 2014.

SEATTLE — The defense for Aaron Ybarra, the man charged in the deadly Seattle Pacific University shooting, will weigh heavily on the testimony of a doctor who testified  at Ybarra’s murder trial on Thursday.

Ybarra  confessed to the shootings, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in King County Superior Court.

Defense attorney Ramona Brandes made her key expert, Dr. Craig Beaver, write down the number of times Ybarra mentioned hate, anger and rage to a psychotherapist before the SPU shooting that killed one student and injured two others on June 5, 2014.

“Seventeen times anger is mentioned, four for hate and four times for rage,” said Beaver, a neuropsychiatrist who evaluated Ybarra after his arrest.

“I think there is ample evidence that he was having auditory hallucinations,” Beaver said.

During his testimony, which started on Wednesday, Beaver supported the defense's theory.

“He felt that he was controlled, his mind was no longer his,” Beaver said.

Ybarra has testified he was controlled by the voice of one of the Columbine shooters and commanded by God to kill.

“He felt that he was commanded to do it,” Beaver said.

But during cross-examination, the prosecution said Ybarra never once talked about being commanded by God during his 57 therapy sessions before the shooting. They say he only brought it up after the trial started to strengthen his insanity defense.

The prosecution also went after Beaver's choice not to record and log his sessions with Ybarra, also pointing out to the expert that he failed to write down conflicting information from other doctors.

At least one other doctor who treated Ybarra before the shooting said he denied hearing voices. But prosecutors say those details never made it in Beaver’s report.

They say Ybarra was obsessed over school shootings and had violent fantasies. Prosecutors say Ybarra was angry with his family and his life and he randomly took it out on students at SPU. Prosecutors say hallucinations did not drive Ybarra to kill, just hate for people.

Jurors will hear from several more people set to take the stand, including three more doctors. Closing arguments are expected to start November 14.

Meanwhile an issue with jurors came up on Thursday that irked Judge Jim Rogers.

Jurors toured SPU’s campus last week, Rogers made it clear that he did not want the media to film any part of the jurors.  Journalism students at SPU published a picture of jurors on their campus newspaper --  not their faces but body parts.

It appears the students were not aware that they were breaking court rules and, luckily, they didn’t show anything that would identify the jurors.