Michael Tate was so excited on the day that Tammy Wachtl brought him home that he ran smack dab into a glass window that he didn't realize was closed. Tate was only seven then and Wachtl knew that he was going to need a lot of attention, so she quit her job to raise the 7-year-old boy who she planned to adopt with her husband in Morisson.
Everything went great on Tate's first day with his new family, Wachtl said on Friday to the jury who will decide whether to send Tate to prison or the insane asylum for the 2004 murder of Steven Fitzgerald. But the pleasant memories took a sad turn quickly when Tate's defense attorney displayed a picture of Tate twelve years ago with Wachtl's husband. The image sent her to tears.
“He was so happy and eager to please and lovable and loving and fun to be around and then he would slip into a different state, an unreachable state, you couldn't talk to him, he would have a fit, he would literally fit until he exhausted himself," Wachtl testified. “We could never determine what was causing him to slip into these things so we didn't know how to prevent what was triggering him, what was sending him into these episodes.”
Like one day early on in the Wachtl's life with Tate, when her husband Dave was playing catch with Tate at a baseball diamond across the street and Tate missed the ball, which hit him in the wrist. It wasn't thrown very hard and Tate didn't have any marks from it, but he started wailing "like a wounded animal," Wachtl told the jury.
“I still can hear it, it was horrible,” she said.
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And the episodes grew worse. There was one at the Rockies game that the Wachtls took Tate to and another at a Chuck E. Cheese. After a trip to Wal-Mart, Wachtl said, Tate was in the passenger seat and accused her of looking at his shorts out of the corner of her eye. Tate started kicking the door and the window and tried to get out of the car while Wachtl drove on the highway.
Another time at the Wachtl home, completely unprovoked, Tate went into a wild fit, kicking and screaming. He was a skinny seven-year-old, but his rage resulted in more strength than Tammy could handle, he was a physical challenge for even her husband to maintain.
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“It became very evident that he needed a lot more mental health treatment than we could provide and my husband brought me down to earth on that,” Wachtl said. “We would've had to have become missionaries to make it work. He wasn't there, you couldn't talk to him, and he would go until he literally was out, if we could've reached him at all during those episodes, we could've had hope.”
But hope ran out within a week and Tate was turned back over to the system and the Wachtls were asked to sever all ties with the youngster. After her testimony, Wachtl's subpoena was dismissed so that she could sit and listen to the following witness, Dr. John Hardy, a child psychologist whose professional opinion is that Tate was indeed insane at the time of the murder. -- Luke Turf Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six, Day Seven, Day Eight, Day Nine