Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Harrison Graham: The Corpse Collector

Mental State

On August 25, the Daily News published an anonymous account by a former lover of Harrison Graham, who said that in January of 1986, Graham had told her that he'd "offed" another girlfriend and tossed her out the window.  She'd waited one day until he'd gone out and then went to the back window.  On the roof below was an old, weathered mattress.  She went out, lifted it, and found a skeleton. 

She hadn't believed his story about murder before, but now she did.  Even with this discovery, she stayed with him.  Eventually, she informed the police, and then moved in with her mother.  But the police never located the body.

When she learned about the bodies found in the apartment, she had counted herself lucky.  "I get nightmares and I can't sleep," she told reporters.  "It's like his hands are around my throat and the life's going out of me."

Eventually she would lose her anonymity, presenting her story in court.

At his six-hour hearing on August 27, Graham reportedly rocked back and forth as a detective read parts of his gruesome statement.  According to one excerpt, to a visitor to his apartment he'd explained away the maggots as "furball bugs."  To ignore the birds eating a body outside his window, he'd "had to stay high all the time."  When the police finally came for him, he hadn't known what to do.  The corpses of his most recent murders were in the front room, so he'd tossed them into the second room, boarded it up, and fled.

Clearly, the question of his competency to go to trial was at stake, and Joel Moldovsky offered the testimony of two psychiatrists.  Dr. Robert Stanton indicated that Graham had an IQ of 63, below the level considered mentally competent, and that Graham was a serious substance abuser of alcohol and drugs and was thus unable to cooperate in his own defense.  He suffered from auditory hallucinations and blackouts, and was psychotic, with chronic paranoid features.  Psychologist Albert Levitt said that Graham was unable to read, write, or even tell time.  He was highly distractible.

But Dr. Robert Sardoff, hired by the DA's office, declared that Graham had no significant mental impediment to assisting with his attorney.  "He was able to respond to my questions," Sadoff told a reporter, "he was able to give police a statement; it was coherent, it was logical."  Judge Edward Mekel declared Graham competent to be prosecuted.

 

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