When someone is arrested and charged with a crime in New Jersey, police departments observe a protocol that includes the reading of Miranda Rights.
The former New York City police officer who is accused of killing his ex-girlfriend with a machete-style knife at her Midland Park home three years ago was not in control of his actions, his doctor testified Thursday.
Arthur Lomando has borderline personality disorder and was suffering from symptoms of the disease when he killed Suzanne Bardzell in her driveway in 2015, said Dr. Alexander Bardey, the psychiatrist.
Throughout his life, Lomando exhibited intense mood swings, fear of abandonment and chaotic behavior, leading other physicians to diagnose him with major depression and impulsive disorder, the doctor went on.
“Borderline personality disorder prevents him from having control of what he’s doing,” Bardey said. “He knows what he’s doing; he just can’t control himself.”
But does Lomando’s mental illness absolve him of Bardzell’s killing?
The question is a crucial one for jurors in Hackensack as they consider Lomando’s state of mind during the attack and in the weeks preceding it. During the trial, which is in its second week, prosecutors have presented a home security video of Bardzell’s killing, and testimony from a friend who was on the phone with her at the time she was attacked.
To the defense, Lomando, 47, is innocent because he killed Bardzell while in a diminished state of mind.
But to the prosecution, Bardzell’s killing was an act of revenge after she obtained a restraining order against Lomando several weeks before she was killed. And after he failed to have it revoked, Lomando allegedly ambushed Bardzell in her driveway.
A history of mental illness
Opening arguments in the trial of Arthur Lomando at the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack on Tuesday, January 22, 2019. Lomando, a former New York City police officer, is accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend with a machete. (left) Lomando talks with his attorney Anthony LaPinta. (Photo: Michael Karas/NorthJersey.com)
On Thursday, Lomando’s defense attorney called Bardey, a forensic psychiatrist who analyzed Lomando during two jail interviews in 2017 and reviewed his medical history, to testify.
Bardey said Lomando’s behavioral and emotional issues date back to childhood, when he often got into fights and was suspended from school multiple times.
“Early on, there was some evidence of personality and behavioral issues,” Bardey said.
The problems continued into his career as a police officer, a time that saw him routinely bounced between precincts because of arguments with other officers, Bardey testified. Lomando was prone to explosive bouts of anger and once threw a desk at a co-worker. His behavior eventually led to his dismissal.
“The way he perceives the world is that he’s always the victim and everyone else is at fault,” Bardey said. “He doesn’t have the insight, the ability to look at himself and see the role he plays in generating the toxic situations he finds himself in.”
Lomando twice was admitted to a psychiatric hospital — once in 2003 for depression and again in September 2015 for having suicidal thoughts. Prosecutors, however, opened cross-examination on Thursday by accusing Lomando of malingering, or exaggerating his illnesses over the years to win benefits.
Lomando remains wheelchair-bound. He was disabled for life after he attempted suicide by jumping in front of a Manhattan subway train shortly after Bardzell’s slaying. Doctors amputated both of his feet in the hospital.
Kirsten DeMarco, an assistant prosecutor, revisited the events of Oct. 22, 2015, for the jury. That is the day Lomando allegedly drove 70 miles from his Long Island home to Bardzell’s Midland Park house. There, he allegedly waited 90 minutes for her to arrive home from a teaching job at Community High School in Teaneck. And in broad daylight, as Bardzell pulled into the driveway, he allegedly emerged from the bushes and stabbed her more than 30 times with a 15-inch machete-style knife.
“That conduct is unplanned?” DeMarco asked Bardey.
The doctor replied that it was, although the act was a function of Lomando’s intense anger, he said.
Calls to police
Lomando and Bardzell had met three years earlier on a dating website, but the relationship became increasingly hostile in fall 2015.
In that span, Bardzell made several complaints against Lomando, including an accusation that he had broken into her house and threatened to kill her while he was holding scissors. She obtained a temporary restraining order and called police multiple times to say he had violated it. And in the days before her death, police filed at least three separate charges against him for those alleged violations.
Prosecutors have put friends and co-workers on the stand to explain how Bardzell became increasingly worried that her ex-boyfriend might turn violent, to the point where she installed security cameras around her home as a precaution.
Video of the stabbing was played to the jury, and a friend of Bardzell’s, who was on the phone with her during the attack, testified that she heard screaming on the other end, and then a man’s voice say: “I’m sorry I have to do this to you.”
Before the killing, Bardey testified that Lomando became paranoid that she was leading him on and then pushing him away, trying to get him arrested and sabotaging his relationships with others.
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