Mother Kills her Two Children & Then Holds Her Therapist Hostage
Paragraph 17 reads: "“Gail in her right frame of mind would never have done this,” Lemke said after the sentencing. 'All of the people we talked with described her as a caring, overprotective mother who loved her children'.”
Paragraph 27 reads: "Court records show that Coontz had received mental-health treatment before the children were killed and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder."
SSRI Stories note: The usual scenario, since the introduction of Prozac in Dec. 1987, is that this mother was given an antidepressant, became deranged, and then was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and either an antipsychotic or a mood stabilizer were added to her antidepressant.
After years of court battles over whether she was sane enough to stand trial, Gail Coontz quietly admitted in a nearly empty courtroom Friday that she killed her two children and held a therapist hostage in March 2008.
Jefferson Circuit Judge Mary Shaw sentenced Coontz, 41, to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years, a sudden end to the high-profile case in which Coontz could have faced the death penalty if convicted. Her trial had been scheduled to begin in a week.
A plea deal came together quickly, starting late Thursday night, when prosecutors changed a previous plea offer of life in prison without parole to life with the possibility of parole in 25 years.
Coontz accepted, pleading guilty to two charges of murder, tampering with physical evidence, terroristic threatening, unlawful imprisonment and wanton endangerment.
Her voice was barely audible as she admitted her guilt to Shaw, sometimes just nodding her head as the judge spoke.
At one point, Shaw asked Coontz if she was capable of making the decision on her own to plead guilty.
“As far as I know, I am,” Coontz responded.
Shaw then noted that Coontz had been found competent to stand trial, though defense attorneys had repeatedly argued she was mentally ill.
After the sentencing , as deputies began to take her from the court, Coontz asked to speak to the judge.
“It’s been a long road,” Coontz told her. “I appreciate your time.”
Mike Lemke, one of Coontz’s attorneys, said his client has been in “agony” since she shot her son Greg, 14, and daughter Nikki, 10, in their Okolona home on March 27, 2008.
Police said Greg was found on a couch in his room, shot three times, including once in the head. Nikki was shot once in the head and “covered with a blanket as if sleeping,” according to an analysis of the scene included in court documents.
Two Easter baskets were on the kitchen table, and a school lunch had been prepared.
Coontz was also accused of taking a gun to the University of Louisville counselingcenter that morning and briefly holding a therapist hostage. Coontz went to talk to a clinical psychologist she had been seeing, saying her children “were OK, with their father.”
But Coontz’s husband, Randy, 38, had died of natural causes in 1997 in Aiken, S.C.
The defense had said it would use a mental-illness defense, with Lemke saying Friday they believed Coontz was “seriously mentally ill” at the time of the killings.
“Gail in her right frame of mind would never have done this,” Lemke said after the sentencing. “All of the people we talked with described her as a caring, overprotective mother who loved her children.”
The guilty plea spares Coontz, her extended family and the community the pain of a lengthy, graphic trial, Lemke said.
In May, Shaw found that Coontz was competent to stand trial after Dr. Amy Trivette, a psychiatrist at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center near La Grange, testified that she could comprehend the proceedings and participate in her defense.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Christie Foster said she had to look at the “facts and all the possible outcomes” of a trial in deciding to offer the altered plea bargain.
“She was raising an insanity defense, and I have to think about all the options a jury would have in that instance,” she said after the sentencing.
Foster said “this is a great outcome,” as Coontz will be in her 60s before she is eligible to see the parole board.
Coontz entered an Alford plea for charges of terroristic threatening, wanton endangerment and unlawful imprisonment in connection with the incident involving the therapist. An Alford plea means she maintained her innocence but acknowledged there was sufficient evidence for a conviction.
When asked by Shaw if there was enough evidence for a jury to convict her on those charges, Coontz replied it was “possible.”
Afterward, Lemke said Coontz had no intention of holding the therapist hostage, only of possibly killing herself.
Coontz told the therapist she didn’t want to hurt anymore and had no more reason to live, according to court records.
Court records show that Coontz had received mental-health treatment before the children were killed and had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
The court documents show that during a January 2008 call to a crisis hot line, Coontz threatened to kill herself and her children. That call prompted an investigation by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which determined Coontz was not a risk to her children.
The records also show that Coontz had been treated at U of L for mental problems, with one goal being to integrate various personalities, and had been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder after suffering abuse as a child.
“I couldn’t put my kids through the hell I went through,” Coontz told authorities the day she was arrested.