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Witness Claims Nally's Father Was Advised to Hospitalize Son

May 14, 1985|JAN KLUNDER | Times Staff Writer

A former girlfriend of suicide victim Kenneth Nally testified Monday that Nally's father said he had been warned by a pastor's wife that the young man was "very sick" and should be committed to a mental hospital.

Katie Thayer, who met Nally at the Grace Community Church in Sun Valley in 1976 and dated him from 1977 until shortly before his death in April, 1979, testified that she visited Nally's parents after he had committed suicide. Thayer said Nally's father, Walter, told her that Patricia MacArthur, wife of the Rev. John MacArthur, had told him before his son's death that Kenneth was "very sick and needed to be committed."

Thayer, who was called as a witness by the plaintiffs, quoted Walter Nally as saying, "I could not do that to my son."

'An Absolute Lie'

Nally took the stand a short time later and branded Thayer's testimony "an absolute lie."

Nally denied that Mrs. MacArthur had ever told him that his son needed psychiatric treatment or that he ever made any such statement to Thayer.

The issue is important because the Nally family claims that Grace ministers knew their son had a history of depression and had threatened to commit suicide but that they failed to warn the family. The Nallys maintain that, if they had known of their son's desire to kill himself, they would have had him admitted to a mental institution.

Walter Nally and his wife, Maria, are suing the church for "clergy malpractice," alleging that improper counseling by pastors caused the 24-year-old man to become estranged from his family and eventually kill himself. The jury trial in Glendale Superior Court is in its fourth week.

Thought Father Was Cheating

Thayer also testified that Kenneth Nally "had a hard time with the fact that he didn't feel a lot of love from his father."

Nally told her while they were dating that he did not take her to his home because of strained relations with his father, Thayer testified. She said Nally was ashamed that his father was not working and resentful because he believed his father was cheating on his mother.

Thayer also testified that Nally seemed to her to be depressed about 75% of the time during their relationship. He occasionally talked of "wanting to go home and be with the Lord," she said.

The Nallys have testified that they did not know their son was suicidal until March 12, 1979, when they found him unconscious from an unsuccessful drug-overdose suicide attempt.

Thayer testified that, before that attempt, Nally had told her of three other occasions when he had tried to kill himself. Thayer also said that she told the Rev. Lynn Cory, a defendant in the case, shortly before Nally's death that Nally had said "he felt like he wanted to die" because she had broken up with him.

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