Summary:

Paragraphs 16 & 17 read: "Ossman, who had been diagnosed as bipolar, meaning he had exaggerated mood swings from mania to depression, was taking only Effexor, a medication for depression, when he allegedly shot Tattersall."

"That would 'absolutely make him worse,' Levinson said. 'He would have been better with no medication.'"

http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-b1-1truckkillersep24,0,7173550.story?coll=all-newslocal-hed

Doctor says man shot to save self
Schuylkill resident charged in trucker's death was mentally ill, testimony says.

By Chris Parker
Of The Morning Call

The sight of a tractor-trailer in his rearview mirror triggered a psychotic episode for a mentally ill Schuylkill County man, who fired a barrage of bullets into the truck when it pulled off Interstate 81, killing its driver, a psychiatrist testified Friday.

Lance R. Ossman, 37, of Tower City ''had a particular sensitivity to people coming up behind him'' and believed ''he had to do something cataclysmic to save himself,'' Dr. Larry Rotenberg said.

That led Ossman to fatally shoot truck driver Neil M. Tattersall, 54, of Ilebizard, Quebec, 11 times at a pulloff in Frailey Township on April 21, 2004, Rotenberg testified at Ossman's Schuylkill County Court trial.

Ossman, who told police after being arrested that he was possessed by a demon, is charged with homicide, but has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors have said Ossman should be found guilty but mentally ill.

Rotenberg testified Ossman didn't know what he was doing when he shot Tattersall. In an evaluation days after the shooting, Ossman told him, ''I guess I must have gotten out and smoked him.''

Nor did he understand that his actions were wrong. To Ossman, the perceived threat was as real ''as Katrina was to the hurricane victims,'' Rotenberg said.

''Are you contending that at the time of this homicide, Lance Ossman didn't know that killing another person was wrong?'' asked Assistant District Attorney James Caravan.

''Yes,'' Rotenberg replied.

He said Ossman's mental illness has improved with medication, but that doesn't mean he is cured. ''I would certainly not want him out in the community at this point,'' he said.

Rotenberg was the final defense witness to testify on the trial's fourth day.

Ossman's attorney, Lora J. McDonald, has called three psychiatrists who have said Ossman met state standards for insanity at the time of the killing in that he did not understand what he was doing.

Ossman's mother and sister also have testified that he struggled with mental illness since childhood, and was acting increasingly strange in the days before Tattersall's slaying ­ even missing his father's funeral.

Prosecutors expect to call a psychiatrist to rebut the defense when the trial resumes Monday.

Also testifying Friday was psychiatrist Ilan Levinson, who said he examined Ossman at Schuylkill County Prison on April 26, 2004, five days after the killing.

Ossman, who had been diagnosed as bipolar, meaning he had exaggerated mood swings from mania to depression, was taking only Effexor, a medication for depression, when he allegedly shot Tattersall.

That would ''absolutely make him worse,'' Levinson said. ''He would have been better with no medication.''

Levinson spoke of Ossman's abuse of drugs ­ such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana and LSD ­ and took police to task for failing to test Ossman for illegal drugs when he was arrested.

''This is something the police should have done,'' he said.

Police arrested Ossman 91/2 miles from Tattersall's truck on I-81 when a state trooper stopped to help him with a front tire that had blown out. The trooper saw Ossman was bloody and had a rifle in plain view in the car, according to testimony.

Police later found Tattersall's bullet-riddled body and saw the logo on his truck matched the logo on Tattersall's bloody jacket, which Ossman was wearing.

Ossman was carrying seven guns, a variety of knives ­ including a 3-foot-long sword and machetes ­ a stun gun and a stun baton when police arrested him.

chris.parker@mcall.com

610-379-3224