An Iraq war veteran, who fatally stabbed his girlfriend after she threatened to end their relationship and leave with their 5-week-old daughter, is falsely claiming to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder in an attempt to escape a murder conviction, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday.
"PTSD is very real, it's just not in this case," Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Frank Dunnick said during closing arguments in Tymarc Warren's murder trial. "Ultimately, there was nothing to suggest that anything about his military experience had any effect on his mental state."
Warren's attorney said the death of Eileen Garnreiter, 22, was a tragedy but not a premeditated murder. She said her client was provoked and acting in self-defense during a domestic squabble, but then mentally snapped "out of reality" when he choked and stabbed Garnreiter early in the morning on Jan. 8, 2011.
"The only excuse for the stabbing is a mental defect," attorney Louisa Pensanti told the jury. "Mr. Warren was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder."
Jurors in the Torrance courtroom began deliberations late Wednesday.
Warren, 28, who testified in his own defense, said he joined the Army after graduating from Leuzinger High School in Lawndale. He said he was inspired to serve following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
He said he served two 6-month tours of duty in Iraq. He recalled traveling in a convoy that was attacked with a roadside bomb. Although nobody was killed, he said that event and others rattled him. He left the Army in 2005, returned home and enrolled in community college, where he met Garnreiter. The pair began dating in 2008.
Garnreiter gave birth to the couple's daughter, Lailah, in early December 2010. The couple struggled to stay afloat financially and couldn't secure healthcare for their baby, straining their relationship, Warren testified.
According to Dunnick, in the hours before Warren killed Garnreiter, he was angry with her because her plans to break up with him had been posted on Facebook. Warren told his sister: "I hate her. I hate her. I want to punch her in the face," the prosecutor said.
When Garnreiter went to fetch her belongings from the couple's apartment, Warren said, he tried to talk her out of leaving. At some point after midnight, a fight erupted between them. Warren told investigators that he snatched his daughter from his girlfriend's arms. Garnreiter, he said, shoved him. He said he set their daughter on a kitchen countertop and wrapped his arms around Garnreiter's neck in a chokehold.
"I'm not applying too much pressure," Warren told jurors. "I'm trying to calm her down."
Garnreiter reached for a kitchen knife, and the struggle escalated, he said.
The serrated chef's knife entered Garnreiter's neck once, then her grip on the knife slackened, Warren said. He said he couldn't recall the specifics of how it happened. After that, he said, he stabbed her twice more in the neck.
"I was just moving," Warren said, indicating that he was acting on instinct — almost reflexively.
A defense expert testified that Warren has complex post-traumatic stress disorder, but a psychiatrist hired by prosecutors disagreed, saying his time in the military was actually one of the more positive experiences of his life.
A coroner's representative testified that Garnreiter was choked and had 16 stab wounds, Dunnick said.
"In a matter of minutes, Eileen goes from holding her baby to using these hands to fight for her life," the prosecutor said, dismissing claims that the former soldier felt threatened by his girlfriend.
"Mr. Warren puts her in the stranglehold ... foregoing any claims of self-defense," Dunnick said.