The Ottumwa Courier

July 22, 2013

Court peers into Pollard's mind, traumatic past

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The court went back in time through Bruce Pollard's traumatic childhood and ensuing mental health problems.

Pollard, 26, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the death of Cinema X manager Kenneth McDaniel on March 11, 2012.

Dr. Craig Rypma, a clinical and forensic psychologist, evaluated Pollard twice this spring, which led him to diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, a "ruled-out diagnosis" of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a personality disorder "not otherwise specified," though Rypma leaned toward borderline personality disorder.

In a face-to-face interview with Rypma, Pollard described his childhood and family as "violent" and indicated that his parents abused alcohol and drugs. He described severe beatings at the hand of his biological father, as well as sexual abuse that began when he was 9 or 10 until he was 11.

"He somehow knew what his father wanted, was confused by it, didn't understand it, but liked the positive attention," Rypma said. "In the clinical interaction I had with Bruce, he presented in a way that is just right on with how hundreds of people that I've talked to in my career present sexual abuse.

"Patients aren't able to make this stuff up unless they have had some experience with it. He presented in a manner that convinced me this abuse had occurred."

The alleged sexual abuse led Pollard to become self-conscious about his body and confused about his sexuality, Rypma said.

"...Bruce had evolved in his sexual development in such a way that he felt that being gay was the worst thing that he could ever imagine ... I suspect because of his confusion regarding the sexual abuse by his dad," Rypma said.

This led to Rypma's diagnosis of PTSD, a disorder which, when the individual tries to stop thinking about the traumatic event, increases their level of anxiety.

Pornography would give Pollard an opportunity to "detach," Rypma said.

"He was experiencing sex without the anxiety that would be created by him actually needing to approach a potential partner," he said.

Pollard told Rypma he went to Cinema X on March 11, 2012 to "get away."

But when he sat down in the theater, McDaniel sat beside him and placed his hand on Pollard's thigh, Pollard told Rypma. That's when Pollard panicked, ran, found the locked front door, turned around and McDaniel was standing right there, he said.

The ensuing confrontation is when Pollard's memory became spotty, Rypma said, which is "extremely common to block out" these types of memories in individuals with Pollard's mental disorders.

But in reality, Pollard's memory wasn't at all fragmented, said prosecutor Scott Brown.

"What Bruce Pollard gives us is a pretty complete version of what he says happens at the theater," Brown said.

Pollard told police he stole the merchandise to make the incident look like a robbery.

"Bruce's self-image, particularly in regards to his sexuality, was so fragile that in his mind ... he thought that he would have rather committed a burglary than ... be seen as having been sexually accosted my Mr. McDaniel," Rypma said.

Pollard also has a history of self-mutilation, or "cutting," as well as suicide attempts.

But he had also been misdiagnosed for years as being bipolar, Rypma said, when in fact he more likely has borderline personality disorder.

"The self-mutilation and suicide attempts caught my eye because those are significant markers for ... borderline personality disorder," Rypma said.

This disorder is marked by an extremely poor self-image, "impulsivity," rapid mood changes and alternating between feelings of closeness to another person while hours later feeling distant, angry and rejected by that same individual.

At the time of McDaniel's murder, Rypma believes Pollard was suffering from one or more mental health disorders. But, he said, Pollard did not have the capacity to form a "premeditated, specific intent to kill."

"I do believe that, generally, Bruce Pollard is not insane," he said. "I think he, in general, has the capacity to make good decisions, to know right from wrong."

But in the moment of the confrontation, Rypma believes Pollard "blacked out" and may have lost that ability to distinguish between right and wrong, similar to how an intoxicated individual will "black out" and drive home, then remember what he or she did throughout the next day, he said.

"I don't believe that he was in touch with his cognitive reasoning at all during the moments of that crime," Rypma said. "I believe he was acting automatically. I think at those moments in time that he was experiencing a complete mental breakdown."

Brown noted that Rypma did not interview any of Pollard's family, therefore all statements about the abuse he suffered as a child came directly from Pollard and no one else.

But, said defense attorney Allen Cook, the state's psychology expert did interview family members who corroborated the statements of abuse, which Rypma then reviewed.

Brown also noted that there is no physical evidence that a sexual assault occurred at Cinema X.

Pollard told police that he wanted to go to prison for what happened.

"That would certainly suggest that what he did to Kenneth McDaniel he thought was wrong," Brown said.

Brown also suggested that Pollard could have inflicted the injuries to his head to make it appear that McDaniel had hit him. But that doesn't coincide with his history of self-mutilation, Rypma said, which typically includes a puncturing or cutting of the forearm.

"The bottom line, Dr. Rypma, is you put a lot of stock in what Bruce Pollard told you happened at Cinema X," Brown said.

Pollard's statements were one part of Rypma's overall evaluation, he said.

"But if what he told you wasn't true, that would certainly affect your opinions?" Brown asked.

Yes, it would, Rypma said.

The trial resumes at 1 p.m. Follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter at @ChelseaLeeDavis for continuous updates throughout the day.