Expert: Antidepressant behind Purcell murder
The Norman Transcript
Transcript Staff WriterAnn Blake Tracy said when she first heard about the April 12 murder of
10-year-old Jamie Rose Bolin, she "knew SSRI antidepressants were involved."
She said her fears were confirmed when she contacted Connie Underwood, the
mother of accused suspect Kevin Underwood, and Mrs. Underwood told her that
Kevin had been on the antidepressant Lexapro and, after having quit Lexapro
in September 2004, had begun taking the drug again in February 2006.?
"He had been taking Lexapro a little over six weeks before he committed
this murder," Tracy said.
The crime attracted national attention due to grisly details revealed in
the days following the murder by police and public officials.
Authorities said they believe Underwood, 26, a downstairs neighbor, lured
the girl into his apartment, struck her several times over her head with a
wooden cutting board and suffocated her with his hands and duct tape.
Investigators said Underwood sexually assaulted the little girl after he
killed her and planned to eat the corpse.
On a motion by defense attorneys, McClain County Special District Judge
Gary Barger April 18 issued a gag order that applies to attorneys on both
sides, law enforcement, court officials and anyone else who deals in an
official capacity with the case.
Tracy, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, said she expects to be called as a
witness in the case, and did not want to discuss specifics of the case or
her conversation with Mrs. Underwood.
Tracy is executive director of the International Coalition for Drug
Awareness (www.drugawareness.org). She has a doctorate in health sciences
with the emphasis on psychology.
The author of "Prozac: Panacea or Pandora? -- Our Serotonin Nightmare,"
Tracy has testified in court cases involving antidepressants for 13 years.
Examples of the more high profile cases she's worked on include the
murder/suicide of comedian Phil Hartman and his wife Brynn, the Columbine
and Red Lake High School shootings, the Andrea Yates case, in which the
Houston mother methodically drowned her five children, and the Atlanta Day
Trader and Connecticut Lottery workplace shootings.
"The last 16 years of my life have been devoted to researching and writing
about SSRI antidepressants," she said. "These are extremely dangerous drugs
that should be banned as similar drugs have been banned in the past."
Tracy said the brain chemical these drugs increase, serotonin, is the same
brain chemical that LSD, PCP and other psychedelic drugs mimic in order to
produce their hallucinogenic effects.
Changes in serotonin levels can produce adverse reactions including
aggression, depression, hostility, hyperactivity, psychosis,
self-destructive behavior, tension and anxiety, vivid and violent dreams,
an inability to tell dreams from reality, an inability to feel emotions,
suicide -- especially very violent suicide, impulsive behavior with no
concern for punishment and argumentative behavior.
"Increasing serotonin -- which is what these drugs are designed to do --
induces both nightmares and sleepwalk," she said.
It is believed that the high serotonin levels overstimulate the brain stem
leading to a lack of muscle paralysis during sleep, thus allowing the
patient to act out the dreams or nightmares they are having, Tracy said.
"The world witnessed that clearly in the Zoloft-induced murder-suicide of
comedian Phil Hartman and his wife, Brynn," she said. "Patients report over
and over again that they have lived out their worst nightmares. And as with
sleepwalk episodes, many have no recall or little recall of what they have
The Food and Drug Administration in 2004 asked manufacturers to put
detailed warnings about a possible increased risk of suicidal behavior and
the need for monitoring on the labels of 10 antidepressants: Prozac,
Zoloft, Paxil, Wellbutrin, Luvox, Celexa, Lexapro, Effexor, Serzone and
Remeron. The warning included both children and adults.
In his blog writings on the Internet, Underwood wrote about his depression
and feelings of being socially inept:
"Pretty much the only time I believe in God is when I want to blame Him for
something. Or, when I'm really depressed, to cry and beg him to make me
better, to make whatever is wrong in my brain go away, so that I can live
like a normal person.
"That's all I want in life, is to be able to live like a normal person."
"I've been really bad again lately. I need to have the doctor write me a
prescription for more Lexapro or something, and start taking that again. I
wonder if they even still make Lexapro? I checked some of those online
pharmacies, to see if I could get it cheaper from Canada or something, but
none of them I've looked at have it. They have five or six other
antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, but not that one."
In September 2004, Underwood wrote that his depression deepened after
several months without taking Lexapro:
"For example, my fantasies are just getting weirder and weirder.
Dangerously weird. If people knew the kinds of things I think about
anymore, I'd probably be locked away. No probably about it, I know I would be."
Underwood said he had five refills of Lexapro left when he quit taking the
drug in September 2004, Tracy said.
"So, for the last year, year and a half, he was probably taking those, and
going off and on the drug. The FDA issued a warning that when taking these
SSRI antidepressants, any abrupt change in dose can result in suicide,
psychosis or hostility -- their word to describe homicide," Tracy said.
This past year the FDA has been forced to publicly agree with Tracy on
several issues regarding the serious dangers of antidepressants. They have
placed the strongest warnings on the drugs next to banning them -- a black
box warning pointing out the doubling of suicide attempts while taking any
anti-depressant. Along with that warning came warnings of worsening of
depression in the initial use, and suicide attempt, mania and hostility
with any abrupt change in dose whether it be up or down.
"How anyone ever thought it would be therapeutic to chemically induce these
reactions is beyond me. Yet, these reactions are exactly what we have
witnessed in our society over the past decade and a half as a result of the
widespread use of these drugs," Tracy said.
Lexapro, the newest and fastest-growing SSRI anti-depressant, has been
prescribed for more than 8 million adults in the United States.
Underwood, charged with first-degree murder, has no previous criminal
record. Judge Barger entered a plea of "not guilty" on his behalf and
appointed Silas Lyman, capital trial division chief for the Oklahoma
Indigent Defense System, and OIDS attorney Diane Box to represent
Underwood. Prosecutors say they intend to seek the death penalty.
Underwood is being held without bond in the McClain County Jail. A
preliminary hearing conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. May 3.
Tom Blakey 366-3540 firstname.lastname@example.org