Man arrested in mother’s murder on suicide watch
Jan. 3, 2003
Martin B. Cassidy, staff writer
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Saturday January 3, 2004
The Greenwich man arrested Thursday morning in connection with the fatal stabbing of his mother on New Year’s Eve has been placed on suicide watch by a state Superior Court judge and will receive medication for bipolar disorder while incarcerated.
Stephen Ferenz, 42, was arraigned yesterday at state Superior Court in Stamford on two counts of first-degree assault of a person over 60 in connection with the stabbing and subsequent death of his mother, Carol Ferenz, 63, at their home at 14 Walker Court.
Prosecutors in the case are considering whether to charge Ferenz with homicide, but must factor in his mother’s refusal to have blood transfusions, in keeping with her faith as a Jehovah’s Witness, they said.
“Those charges definitely need to be considered,” Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney James Bernardi said after the hearing.
Unshaven and dressed in a white jumpsuit, Ferenz did not speak during the hearing.
Carol Ferenz had been installing a new computer with her other son, John Ferenz of Danbury, when Stephen Ferenz stabbed her multiple times in the chest and arms, Bernardi, the prosecutor in the case, told State Superior Court Judge James Bingham.
“The defendant came into the room and appeared to be jostling with his mother,” Bernardi said. “His brother than realized his mother had been stabbed.”
Ferenz, who lived with his parents and sister, stopped taking prescribed medication for bipolar disorder about two weeks ago, after which his behavior and mental state deteriorated, Bernardi told the judge. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a condition marked by wide mood swings, ranging from elation to deep depression.
Public Defender Susan Hankins asked that Ferenz receive a prescription issued by a psychiatrist who examined him after the attack.
“Along with the bipolar disorder, there are issues of depression and medication,” she said.
Bernardi told the judge he was trying to decide whether homicide charges, such as manslaughter or murder, are warranted in the case. Carol Ferenz had refused what could have been life-saving blood transfusions, in accordance with her faith as a Jehovah’s Witness, he said.
“Apparently she was conscious and alert,” Bernardi said. “We need to decide whether homicide charges should be filed.”
Carol Ferenz was taken to Greenwich Hospital and later to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., for treatment, Greenwich police said. She died at 12:20 a.m. Thursday, police said.
“We’ll probably have to speak to the doctors,” Bernardi said. “She indicated both to the medical technicians and at the hospital that before receiving a blood transfusion she had to check with the elders of her faith.”
Andrew Ferenz, who identified himself as the husband of the victim, confirmed that his wife turned down a transfusion.
“She looked the doctor in the eye and said ‘no transfusion, no blood,’ ” Ferenz said yesterday.
Police said they filed the assault charges because the medical examiner has not classified the death, including whether it was a homicide. The Westchester County Medical Examiner said her death was caused by blood loss due to stab wounds, police said.
A public affairs spokesman at the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ world headquarters in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., referred questions about the faith’s ban on blood transfusions to the organization’s public affairs Web site at www.jw-media.org.
According to the Web site, Jehovah’s Witnesses are required to refuse blood transfusions for religious reasons. This requirement is based on several biblical passages, including Acts 15:29, which orders Christians to abstain from blood, as well as the “meat of strangled animals.”
George Pawlush, a spokesman for Greenwich Hospital, said patients can decide to reject a potentially life-saving treatment.
“Greenwich Hospital has policies with regard to patient rights,” Pawlush said. “One of the patients’ rights is . . . to make health care decisions in collaboration with their doctor. This includes whether to accept or reject proposed treatments.”
Andrew Ferenz said “no way” should his son be charged with homicide. He said his son has been on medication for 25 years.
“When he does go off of it, he can’t control himself,” Ferenz said. “This is the only time he got violent.”
Ferenz added: “He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He needs help.”
Bingham ordered Stephen Ferenz held on $1 million bond at Bridgeport Community Correctional Center. He is scheduled to appear Jan. 13 in state Superior Court for a discussion of the charges against him.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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