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Lawyers for Capital Gazette Shooter Say He Was Mentally Unstable Before Attack

The trial of Jarrod Ramos, who killed five journalists in an Annapolis newsroom in 2018, began Tuesday.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CN) — As the trial to determine the criminal responsibility of Capital Gazette shooter Jarrod Ramos began Tuesday, his defense attorney described him as a loner — a virgin living alone since he was 24, caring only for his pet cat Tiger.

“He never kissed another human being,” lead public defender Katy O’Donnell said. “He never had any friends.”

Monday marked the three-year anniversary of Ramos’ attack — blasting his way into The Capital office suite and killing five journalists. John McNamara, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, Rob Hiaasen and Rebecca Smith were honored Monday with an installation at Newman Park named the “Guardians of the First Amendment” — featuring five stone pillars symbolizing the writers in front of a stone etching of the First Amendment.

The jury set to decide whether Ramos should be held criminally responsible for his attack sat last week after prolonged schedule jockeying due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Attorneys have also sparred over whether to allow the testimony of a psychologist who never interviewed Ramos into evidence.

Ramos faces commitment to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital if he is found not criminally responsible for the attack. If a jury decides he was competent to understand the viciousness of his killings, he will serve life in prison.

On Tuesday, state prosecutors --- with Anne Leitess, the Anne Arundel County state’s attorney leading that team --- signaled they would wait for Ramos’ defense to present its case before issuing an opening statement.

O’Donnell named several witnesses the defense plans to call throughout the trial and pointed to a slew of mental disorders jurors are expected to learn about — including obsessive compulsive disorder, delusional disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, Autism spectrum disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.

Jurors will likely hear from several mental health experts who have diagnosed Ramos with several of those disorders.

Elizabeth Palan, another of Ramos’ public defenders, began Tuesday by questioning detective Jason DiPietro, who led Anne Arundel County's investigation, about the timing of the shooting.

DiPietro and Palan reviewed security footage of the attack caught on the suite’s motion-detecting cameras, which show Ramos placing a Barracuda Intruder Defense system --- a black metal device meant to jam a door --- beneath the gap of the office’s exit. Another device was found near another exit of the building but was not deployed.

Anne Arundel Police released this photo of Jarrod Warren Ramos on June 28, 2018. First-degree murder charges were filed Friday against Ramos who police said targeted Maryland's capital newspaper, shooting his way into the newsroom and killing four journalists and a staffer before officers arrested him. (Anne Arundel Police via AP)

Capital Gazette employees are shown throwing their entire weight into the door as Ramos’ shadow shifts behind them, walking towards the fleeing Capital Gazette members down what DiPietro described as a long hallway. Another image shows Ramos standing around shattered glass seconds after shooting his way into the office suite.

DiPietro testified he watched countless videos that put Ramos at the office suite around 2:21 p.m. Traffic camera videos caught Ramos’ rental car entering the parking lot of the office suite around that time, DiPietro said.

The first 911 call came in about 15 minutes later, he said, from the office suite across the hall — witnesses from that suite called police after they saw Ramos shoot his way into the building. The second call came from Ramos himself, DiPietro said.

DiPietro testified officers found Ramos when they noticed his feet protruding from beneath a desk, where he was hiding. A 12-guage shotgun equipped with a flashlight, precision laser sight and stock handle were recovered from Ramos. The gun also contained hollow chambers in the stock to carry additional ammunition.

DiPietro testified Ramos bought the weapon legally, ordering the Mossberg pump gun from the website and picking the weapon up at a Bass Pro Shop in Hanover, Maryland.

Both the prosecution and defense focused on several letters Ramos sent on the day of his rampage, including one sent to the home of a retired Judge Charles Moylan and a greeting card containing a CD with numerous files with information about Ramos’ eventual victims and the dimensions of the Capital Gazette offices.

A group of photos on the disc showing numerous photos of one employee’s four children, labeled by Ramos as “Orphan 1” through "Orphan 4."

That card was sent to Eric Hartley in Norfolk, Virginia, a former Capital Gazette reporter who reported on Ramos’ 2012 defamation suit against the paper after he criminally harassed a woman in 2011. Inside Ramos wrote: “Smile, it’s your day and all eyes are on you.”

Jurors also heard brief testimony from Kimberly Morrisette, a crime scene technician with the Anne Arundel County Police Department. Morrisette described her method for labeling sections of cubicles inside the Capital Gazette offices and noted color-coded marking on a diagram of the space where she indicated evidence was collected by police.

Morrisette also took crime scene photos reviewed in trial Tuesday, which included a stash of 43 unspent shotgun shells.

The trial resumes Wednesday with the testimony of Wesley Callow, one of the first officers to respond who found Ramos face down, hiding under the desk. Jurors watched a large portion of Callow’s body-worn camera video from the day of the attack which showed Callow escorting Ramos from the building.

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