Trial begins in stabbing death of Glenville woman

STAMFORD — Stephen Ferenz seemed to show remorse for stabbing his mother, his brother testified yesterday.

“I thought he had realized what he did,” said John Ferenz, 45, of Danbury.

But minutes later, as John Ferenz comforted his mother on the kitchen floor of her Glenville home, Stephen Ferenz grabbed a second knife from the kitchen and charged her again. “He dove toward us,” John Ferenz said.

Carol Ferenz, 63, died soon after midnight Jan. 1, 2004, at the Westchester County Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y. Her son’s trial before a three-judge panel began yesterday in state Superior Court in Stamford.

In addition to John Ferenz, a policeman and a paramedic testified against the mentally ill Glenville man, who was charged with murder in the Dec. 31, 2003, stabbing.

Attorneys on both sides agreed Stephen Ferenz did not know what he was doing during the attack and should be imprisoned in a secure mental-health facility.

Jim Bernardi, supervisory assistant state’s attorney, said he believes Ferenz was insane when he stabbed his mother and should be confined in a psychiatric facility for life.

Defense attorney Susan Hankins said she will argue today that Ferenz, who has a history of serious mental illness, was not criminally responsible because of serious mental disease or defect.

Stephen Ferenz, 43, is not expected to testify. Two more witnesses are scheduled to appear: A deputy medical examiner who performed Carol Ferenz’s autopsy will testify for the prosecution; and a forensic psychoanalyst will testify for the defense.

John Ferenz recounted that his younger brother appeared in an upstairs bedroom in the Ferenz’s Glenville home at 14 Walker Court and attacked Carol Ferenz from behind with a knife.

John Ferenz was at the house visiting his mother and helping her install a computer.

In the initial struggle, he didn’t realize his mother had been stabbed, John Ferenz said.

“I saw the blade of the knife and remember getting in a struggle with him right away,” he said.

Moments after John Ferenz disarmed him, Stephen Ferenz appeared to show remorse. But downstairs, he grabbed a second knife and attacked again.

“I got the knife away and was on top of him punching him in the side of the face,” John Ferenz said.

John Ferenz said he could not get a dial tone to call 911 from the house, so he dragged his brother outdoors and called from a cell phone.

Police Officer Mark Zuccerella recalled seeing John Ferenz restraining his brother on the ground.

Zuccerella asked Stephen Ferenz what he had done before putting him in the back of his cruiser.

“He said he hurt his mom,” the officer testified yesterday. “Then he went on to say he stabbed her.”

James Anderson, a paramedic for Greenwich Emergency Medical Service Inc., said he treated several chest wounds and a severe laceration on Carol Ferenz’s right arm.

As he took her to Greenwich Hospital, Carol Ferenz said Stephen Ferenz had stabbed her, Anderson testified.

” ‘He isn’t right,’ ” Anderson remembered Carol Ferenz said.

Hankins did not contest the three witnesses’ testimony.

After the hearing, she and Bernardi said Stephen Ferenz lacked the capacity to understand why his actions were wrong. But Hankins declined to discuss her client’s state of mind on the night of the murder.

“We intend to present the testimony of a forensic psychiatrist to address the question of his mental state,” she said.

Under Connecticut law, a defendant can be found guilty but not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect.

If Ferenz is found not responsible, Hankins said she would recommend that he be placed under the jurisdiction of the six-member Psychiatric Security Review Board, which determines the confinement terms for mentally ill convicts.

The case posed an unusual judicial and religious issue because Carol Ferenz, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, declined a potentially life-saving blood transfusion in keeping with her faith.

Prosecutors weighed manslaughter charges before charging Ferenz with murder, ultimately deciding that state law warranted the heavier charge though Carol Ferenz had declined medical treatment, Bernardi said.

“The law says as long as the defendant’s actions are part of the chain of cause, he is liable to the murder charge,” Bernardi said yesterday.

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