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'I Didn't Know I Did Shooting,' Allaway Testifies

Courts: He speaks publicly about the seven people he killed in 1976. One victim's widow says he should be freed.

November 29, 2001|STUART PFEIFER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Speaking publicly for the first time about the seven people he killed, former Cal State Fullerton janitor Edward Charles Allaway said Wednesday that delusions led him to believe he was one of the victims--not the killer.

Even as seven people lay dead and two wounded at the campus library in 1976, Allaway thought he was calling police to report that he had been assaulted when he actually was confessing, he testified in a Santa Ana courtroom.

"I thought I explained to them that I was hurt," Allaway told a judge who will decide whether to release him from a state mental hospital. "I was beaten up and I wanted to press charges. I didn't know I did the shooting. I couldn't accept it or have a real understanding of what I had done."

Allaway told Judge Frank F. Fasel that he initially planned to call in sick on July 12, 1976, but instead found himself at the library, lying on the ground and feeling a pain in his neck.

"I thought I got shot in the back of the neck," he said. He was not actually injured.

Allaway said he knows he went into the library but does not remember shooting anyone. Instead, he has visions of running behind victim Debbie Paulsen, thinking they were both fleeing an enraged assailant. Allaway said he has since learned that he shot Paulsen in the back while the 26-year-old woman fled.

As Allaway spoke, Paulsen's brother, Paul, removed his glasses and began to cry in the back row of the courtroom. Paul Paulsen is among a group of victims' relatives who are opposing Allaway's release from Patton State Hospital near in San Bernardino.

Hearing Allaway describe his memories of the shootings made some of those relatives angry.

"I don't believe that; he's never said that before . . . not for 25 years," said Patricia Almazan, whose father, Frank Teplansky, died in the rampage.

But one victim's widow seated in the front row of the courtroom said it's time to set the 62-year-old Allaway free.

"I don't believe in vengeance and that's what this is all about," said Judith Herzberg, whose husband, Paul, died in the shootings. "What we're trying to do is take an insanity plea and turn it into life imprisonment."

Herzberg, who works as a real estate lawyer in Long Beach, said she believes Allaway was never mentally ill and that it would be inappropriate to keep him locked up in a mental hospital when he's psychologically fit.

Allaway's lawyer, Deputy Public Defender John Bovee, welcomed Herzberg's support.

"I'm glad to hear that some people are thinking it's time to do away with revenge and move on with the healing process. That's really what this is all about," Bovee said.

As a way to make amends with his victims, Allaway said he has tried to remember each of their names. His voice trembling, Allaway named eight of the shooting victims from the witness stand. He forgot the name of Seth Fessenden, a retired professor, until his memory was jogged by a prosecutor who is opposing his release. Allaway later described Fessenden as "the sweetest man I ever knew."

Two Previous Bids for Freedom Failed

A judge found Allaway not guilty by reason of insanity in 1977. The former Marine and Detroit auto factory worker has spent nearly a quarter-century in state mental hospitals. He has twice previously lost bids to gain his freedom, but this time, doctors and staff at Patton say they consider him safe for release. Several doctors say Allaway's schizophrenia is in remission.

His case has attracted international attention. Mental health experts said no killer in U.S. history with as many victims as Allaway has been released from a mental hospital.

Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Daniel Wagner focused his cross-examination Wednesday on Allaway's history of violence. The former janitor said he has been involved in numerous fights, including an assault on his ex-wife before the shootings, and some skirmishes in state hospitals afterward.

Wagner also questioned Allaway about whether he's truly remorseful, noting that he has done nothing to support his victims' families, including the three children of Allaway's best friend, Donald Karges, who died in the shootings.

"I don't have anything," Allaway replied, saying his maintenance job at Patton pays 30 cents an hour.

The soft-spoken Allaway remained composed during Wagner's questioning. He said his mental health has improved remarkably during years of therapy, but he could not pinpoint the date he believes he was cured.

"It takes time. Nothing happens overnight. It's not like the flu," Allaway said. "I'm the best I can be. I feel good about my improvement."

Allaway is scheduled to begin his third day of testimony today.

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