Six years after slashing a psychotherapist he’d never met to death with a meat cleaver, David Tarloff stood before a judge and pleaded for mercy Friday, saying he was tormented for decades by what felt like a running battle in his head between God and Satan.
“I didn’t want to do this, I swear to God,” he said. “But I thought all these bad things were going to happen.”
Tarloff was sentenced to life in prison for killing Kathryn Faughey and seriously wounding her officemate, capping a case long fraught with questions about his mental health and the grief of two families.
On one side of the courtroom sat about a dozen of Faughey’s relatives, including some siblings who have attended each of the roughly 95 days of court in a case rocked by two mistrials. On the other sat Tarloff’s brother, Robert, who when he testified at Tarloff’s last trial became emotional and cried.
Even state Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin said the case was so tragic he couldn’t find it in himself to be angry. Instead, he talked about his own family’s similarity to the Faugheys’ and his certainty that the slain therapist was now experiencing “the most gleeful existence possible.”
Tarloff, 46, never disputed killing Faughey and wounding her officemate, Dr. Kent Shinbach, in February 2008 in their Manhattan office. Tarloff had intended to stick up Shinbach — a psychiatrist he hadn’t seen in 17 years — in hopes of getting his ATM card and withdrawing tens of thousands of dollars. Tarloff then planned to grab his sick mother out of a nursing home and take her to Hawaii.
Defense lawyers Bryan Konoski and Frederick Sosinsky argued that the often hospitalized, frequently delusional Tarloff should not be held criminally accountable for the bloodbath. But prosecutors said despite his psychiatric condition, Tarloff — whose doctors had found him to be obsessed with religion — behaved deliberately and knew he was doing wrong.
Tarloff was diagnosed with schizophrenia while in college. Over the ensuing years, he reported seeing the “eye of God” on a kitchen floor and thinking he was the Messiah, medical records show. Forever fearful that bad things would happen if he contradicted God’s will, he prays to God even for permission to turn over in his bed, he said Friday.
On the night of the attack, “I had a thought that came into my head that I interpreted as coming from God. God said, ‘David, your mother is going to die unless you kill Dr. Shinbach,'” he said Friday. “I felt that I was getting a command to go and do what I did.”
His plan took a turn when he walked into the office and encountered Faughey. The eldest of seven siblings raised by a widowed mother, she worked her way through college and graduate school to a family-first doctorate, her brother, Owen Faughey, said.
“If given a chance, I know our sister would have helped” Tarloff, he said.
Instead, Tarloff slashed Faughey 15 times with a meat cleaver, fractured her skull with a mallet and seriously injured Shinbach when he tried to intervene.
“Doctors Faughey and Shinbach devoted their careers to helping people who have mental illnesses, making this cold-blooded attack all the more tragic,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in a statement Friday.
Tarloff was initially found mentally unfit to stand trial. Then he was declared competent, but his behavior deteriorated during jury selection in 2010 and he was found incompetent again for a time. A trial last year ended in a hung jury. In March, he was retried and convicted of murder and assault. The jury rejected his insanity defense.
Owen Faughey said after the sentencing that he hoped prison officials treat Tarloff compassionately.
So does Robert Tarloff.
“Now that justice has been served for his crime, justice needs to be served for David — he needs to be cared for” in prison, he said.