OTTUMWA — Psychologists differed on which mental disorder could have contributed to Bruce Pollard's alleged murder of Kenneth McDaniel.
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.
On Monday morning, the defense called Dr. Craig Rypma, a clinical and forensic psychologist who evaluated Pollard on two separate occasions. He diagnosed Pollard with 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 he leaned toward borderline personality disorder.
Rypma's testimony included Pollard's claims of severe physical and sexual abuse as a young boy at the hands of his father.
"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," Rypma said. "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."
Prosecutor Scott Brown was concerned, though, that Rypma put too much stock in Pollard's account of events, rather than corroborating his claims.
Brown called clinical psychologist Dr. Anna Salter, who disputed some of Rypma's statements after interviewing Pollard's mother, sister, brother, girlfriend and friend.
But how would his family know what happened that day? asked defense attorney Allen Cook. Their statements are relevant, she said, because Pollard's thinking and feelings that day influenced his actions, according to his account to police.
The fact that Pollard had a traumatic childhood was not disputed. His sister's claim that they both had been sexually abused by their father was upheld by the family. But Pollard's claims of one-on-one sexual abuse by his father were not supported by his family, Salter said.
Pollard told Salter that when he originally reported the abuse, his brother and cousins teased him and called him gay.
"They [Pollard's family] told me they did not know he was sexually abused," Salter said. "They didn't actually doubt it, but they said that it was absolutely not true that ... he was teased as being homosexual."
If the teasing and resulting homophobia are not true, then Pollard's story that McDaniel came on to him — which made him panic that people would think he was gay — does not hold up, she said.
"I don't think there is anything in the mental health conditions that he had that would keep him from being able to form intent," she said. "I think what you see right after the homicide is he was very quickly able to form the intent of protecting himself and getting out of there in a way that wouldn't cause suspicion."
She doesn't believe Rypma's claims that Pollard "blacked out" during the confrontation, since he was able to detail an entire timeline of what happened in the theater.
"Most blackouts are alcoholic," she said. "Blackouts are not a term associated with PTSD. If he had blacked out, he wouldn't have remembered probably any of it."
And if Pollard was trying to escape, as he told police, he would have pushed or hit McDaniel and run, she said, not gotten into a violent struggle.
"I don't believe the state of panic described is consistent with him being calm enough to suddenly find the door, plan to make it look like a robbery, stroll out the building and nonchalantly throw a bag over his shoulder," she said.
Salter does not dispute the fact that Pollard suffers from PTSD. But her and Rypma's opinions differ in whether Pollard has borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder.
The basis of BPD is "roller coaster" relationships with others due to over-valuing or de-valuing, she said. Bipolar disorder, on the other hand, involves severe mood swings, which was corroborated by Pollard's girlfriend.
Rypma, on the other hand, said that in bipolar disorder, mood swings last over a period of weeks or months, whereas with borderline personality disorder, mood swings are more rapid, within hours.
"Unless you're a psychopath — and I don't believe he is — when your adrenaline starts surging, it does not instantly evaporate," she said.
But did you consider the possibility that Pollard could have been acting in self defense? Cook asked. He wasn't, Salter said, because he told police that he hit McDaniel first.
"Just standing there does not constitute an assault," she said.
And If Pollard was watching a film when McDaniel allegedly touched him, who would have turned off the projector? she said. The projector was turned off and the reel was at the beginning when police arrived.
"I just don't think his story holds water," she said. "I think that he couldn't have come down from it that quickly. I think the story is physically impossible. How could a 70-year-old man catch a man in his mid-20s that fast before he could figure out how to get out? And I don't think corroborating evidence or interviews or mental health records suggest that he was capable of a kind of blind panic where he wouldn't know what he was doing."
Both the state and defense have rested their cases. The jury will be presented with legal instructions at 9 a.m. Tuesday, followed by closing arguments. They will then begin deliberations.
For more detailed coverage of Dr. Craig Rypma's testimony Monday morning, go to www.ottumwa.com to read "Court peers into Pollard's mind, traumatic past." To follow the trial as it unfolds, follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter at @ChelseaLeeDavis.