A janitor who killed seven people at Cal State Fullerton did so during a psychotic episode that hasn't recurred in more than 20 years, but there's no way to tell whether his mental illness would flare up again, a psychiatrist testified Thursday.
On a day that Edward Charles Allaway was brought to tears while discussing his hopes for release, the prosecution presented its first witness to show he should stay in a state mental hospital.
"He is atypical," psychiatrist David Sheffner said. "He was clearly grossly psychotic for a substantial period of time, and then without medication he has not been psychotic . . . for more than two decades."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Daniel Wagner asked whether that means Allaway won't relapse if released into society.
"That's the $64 question," Sheffner said. ". . . The answer to that question, firmly, is, 'We don't know.' "
Although there is no way to tell whether Allaway might suffer the same types of delusions that led him to commit the killings, Sheffner said, "if this individual were to be in a paranoid psychotic state, knowing what he did in 1976, he would be extremely dangerous."
It's been 25 years since Allaway roamed the narrow hallways of the Cal State Fullerton library, shooting victims as they cowered in offices, ran for their lives or tried to disarm him. An avid hunter and former Marine, Allaway shot nine people, killing seven.
One year after the shootings, an Orange County judge found Allaway not guilty by reason of insanity. Now, with the blessing of several members of the staff at Patton State Hospital, Allaway has asked a different judge to declare his sanity restored and set him free.
Allaway, 62, completed nine hours of riveting testimony Thursday in a Santa Ana courtroom, sobbing as he talked about his frustrations with mental illness and his dreams of living outside a state hospital.
"You want to be normal," said Allaway, who wiped away tears and paused several seconds before continuing. "I would like to have a good relationship with a woman. . . . It's hard to keep caring, believing nothing's ever going to change."
Allaway was composed for most of his three days of testimony, displaying both compassion for his victims and a sense of humor. At one point, Wagner asked Allaway why he didn't tell his wife he caught a venereal disease while stationed overseas with the Marines.
"It's not something you want to sit down fireside and share with your wife," he replied.
Testimony could conclude as early as next week. Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank F. Fasel then would decide whether to release Allaway or order him to continue to be held at Patton as a danger to society.
Sheffner, who first interviewed Allaway in 1977 and concluded he was mentally ill, said the former university janitor's apparent recovery is an extremely rare case, particularly because he did not take any psychiatric medication.
"I can't explain that, except to say in medicine, there's a lot of things we can't explain," he said.