More details about the incident in Anchorage -- it *definitely* seems like mind control to me !!
Voices plagued slashing suspect
EARLY YEARS: 'I never thought he would ever hurt anyone,' mother says.
By Sheila Toomey And Lisa Demer
Anchorage Daily News
(Published May 9, 2001)
The man who wanted to kill children to save them from damnation lived a life that seemed relatively normal and even successful until the mid-1990s, when the command voices and religious delusions of schizophrenia apparently took over his life.
Jason W. Pritchard worked hard, owned a vending machine business, bought a four-plex in East Anchorage, and went to church regularly.
But by 1995, according to public files and interviews with family and people who encountered him, the four-plex was gone and Pritchard had begun collecting arrests. They were driving offenses at first, apparently alcohol related. He lost his license in 1994 in a drunken driving conviction and lost his job at Eastside Carpet Co., because the job required driving, said company owner Ross Walther.
He was in conflict with his Jehovah's Witnesses faith, drinking and going to strip bars, but apparently fighting his demons, the voices only he heard. He listened to religious self-help tapes, Walther said, but gave Walther's wife the creeps when he cornered her and talked about religion.
"He'd look at you like he didn't see you half the time," he said.
By 1998, Pritchard had been "disfellowshipped" from the church for patronizing a prostitute. Police in Anchorage and on the Kenai Peninsula, where he often lived with his stepfather, were arresting him regularly for criminal trespass and once for stalking, because he refused to stop preaching at young people about the evils of sex.
That's what he was doing this past Saturday in Homer at the Subway restaurant, said owner Deb Germano. He sat down at a tableful of middle-school boys and "told them he was here to do the work of God and they were sheep," Germano said. But he left quickly when she asked him to leave the kids alone.
Pritchard seemed crazy, though not especially threatening to his unwilling audiences. But by 1999 his record of bizarre behavior and lack of response to treatment spelled danger to then-prosecutor Carmen ClarkWeeks, who turned the last of his trespassing cases into a forum on his potential dangerousness.
"We had him taking the medication for three months and nothing happened," ClarkWeeks said.
"Essentially he continued to hear the voices. . . . The voices said to him that children were pure. Children were God's special favorites, but once they hit puberty and began to sin, they were damned for eternity. ... It was clear that whatever had caused what we were looking at, the end result was really dangerous."
That's not how it was at the beginning, said his mother, Christina Heath.
Pritchard, 33, was born in Eugene, Ore., and spent his early years there, in the Seattle area and in Kellogg, Idaho. His father was from Eugene and she is from Atka, on the Aleutian Islands, Heath said. She is now remarried and living in Anchorage.
In her Midtown home, still numb from the news of the slashings, Heath agreed to talk about her son's life to show that "Jason wasn't in his right mind when he did what he did."
She sat on the sofa in her living room, a bright, airy and immaculate space. Family pictures of fishing trips, graduations, grandchildren and weddings cover the walls.
Pritchard seemed like a normal, healthy boy and young man, she said, until his early 20s, when something snapped.
When Jason was small, his father suffered an emotional breakdown, Heath said. After that, he had little involvement in raising Jason or his younger siblings, she said. She supported the family as a hotel maid and a waitress.
Heath married again, a diesel mechanic named Larry Trefren, who was a good man when sober but had problems with alcohol, she said. Court records show a string of charges over the years and convictions for second-degree weapons misconduct in 1988 and driving under the influence in 1992. In a phone interview Tuesday evening, Trefren said all that happened long ago. He's been sober for five years, he said.
The family moved to Ketchikan and then to Wrangell, where something happened that led the state to take custody of the children, Heath said. They were put into a foster home. Heath said she has put the difficult times out of her mind and can't remember what the trigger was.
When the family reunited, they moved to Anchorage and eventually to Anchor Point, where they bought property and built a house.
Pritchard had a crush on a girl from Homer High School who was a Jehovah's Witness, Heath said, and was baptized into the church.
Pritchard struggled with the Bible and the church's teachings, she said.
"He was just making his own visions of the verses he read, but it was not correct. He was totally confused." He interpreted one Bible verse as telling children to shun their parents. But he never talked to his family about killing innocent children to protect them from sin, she said.
"I never thought he would ever hurt anyone," she said.
As a teen, Pritchard worked on fishing boats. He graduated from Homer High School. He stayed in the area and worked on a commercial crab boat.
"He was very well to-do," his mother said. He moved to Anchorage, and according to property records, bought a four-plex on San Roberto Avenue. He lived in one unit and rented out the others. He also bought a vending machine business, his mother said.
In 1995, around the time Pritchard's life began to spin out of his control, his mother and her boyfriend, whom she would later marry, moved to Nevada. Pritchard, though a grown man, felt abandoned, she said.
The family didn't realize he was seriously disturbed, she said. They struggled to get information from his doctors, even when he cut off the end of his penis with a kitchen knife while at his brother's apartment. He had taken a shower, according to the family. He came out dressed and sat quietly on the couch. His brother didn't notice anything until Pritchard got up, leaving a blood-soaked patch where he had been sitting. His brother rushed him to the hospital.
Voices told him to cut off his penis, said ClarkWeeks, the prosecutor who worried about Pritchard's mental decline back in 1999 and presented his history at a sentencing hearing. "Voices told him to do so for two reasons: If you weren't sexual, it would be easier to get into heaven. No more risk of masturbation, prostitution or massage parlors. He also believed he should be an example to the children, that later the children should lose their genitals," ClarkWeeks said.
At the end of this February 1999 hearing, Pritchard was sentenced to 130 days, a long time for a relatively minor trespass charge, to give the Department of Corrections time to seek an involuntary commitment to the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. Corrections did so and Pritchard entered in March 1999. A few days later, API staff reported to the Anchorage Police Department that he was making death threats against children for religious reasons, according to the charging document filed Tuesday.
His mother visited him regularly. She took him out on weekend passes. They went to movies. He was eager to get out, she said.
He was discharged about a year ago and moved back in with his mother. When she remarried in July 2000, Pritchard walked her down the aisle.
"He seemed in good spirits. I didn't see anything wrong," Heath said.
He soon moved back to Anchor Point to live with his former stepfather. His life seemed normal, if heavy on religion, Trefren said. Pritchard worked at a Ninilchik cannery, studied the Bible and went to church every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
Over the weekend, Pritchard listened to Bible tapes nonstop, Trefren said.
"He'd been fine until this last weekend. He buried himself in the Bible. I told him he was going to overdose on this stuff." When Trefren awoke at 5:30 Monday morning, Pritchard and all his stuff were gone, he said.
Pritchard hadn't been taking his medication, Trefren said. Trefren said he didn't know how important it was.
"Nobody told me. I had no idea he was this bad," Trefren said.
Until the attack Monday on the children at Mountain View Elementary School, Pritchard's violence seemed directed mostly toward himself. He disrupted a service in 1998 at a local Kingdom Hall by offering to lead the congregation in suicide. "His statement was that the only way you can get to the kingdom of God is to kill yourself," said Richard Baker, a church elder who was there.
Church officials didn't really want Pritchard arrested, he said. But police said nothing would be done if they didn't file a complaint. "I said this guy needs help, so we pressed charges," Baker said.
This is how it was until Monday. Pritchard's crimes were petty, even if his talk was sometimes scary.
Judge Stephanie Rhoades, who worked in 1999 to get Pritchard committed, said there's no good place to put people like him. Outside of locking them in jail or API, there's no way to make sure they take their medication. And, she said, there are few places for people whose sickness keeps them from understanding how sick they are.
"I cannot comment on the cases pending," Rhoades said Tuesday. "But with respect to the 1999 case that is now over, it was like seeing something dangerous coming at you in slow motion and there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop it."
Daily News reporter Sheila Toomey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4341; reporter Lisa Demer can be reached at email@example.com or 257-4390. Daily News reporters Tom Kizzia and Molly Brown contributed to this story.
MARtin F. ABErnathy [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Bronx,NY 10473 May 9, 2001