Add To Favorites

Former University of Hartford student committed to 20 years in state mental hospital in stabbing of two fellow students while making film

Hartford Courant - 12/23/2019

Jake Wascher, the former University of Hartford student acquitted by reason of insanity in the stabbing of two fellow students last March, was committed Monday to the custody of the state Psychiatric Security Review Board for 20 years.

Hartford Superior Court Judge James T. Graham specified that Wascher, 21, be held at the maximum security Whiting Forensic Hospital in Middletown. Wascher will undergo treatment for his mental illness, described Monday as an “unspecified psychotic disorder.” A psychiatrist testified Monday that it not yet clear what illness Wascher suffers from.

“We still don’t know whether this is a long-term psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder, or whether it was ... a brief psychotic disorder,” said Dr. Reena Kapoor, a forensic psychiatrist at Yale and Whiting.

“You don’t know whether the symptoms will persist for a long time or whether this is over and resolved,” she said. “Only time and observation will tell.”

Kapoor said Wascher needs continued treatment, including medication and psychotherapy. She also said he may need substance abuse treatment in the future. She said she did not think his marijuana use contributed to the incident, but said “there is a relationship between psychosis and ongoing cannabis use.”

While defense attorney Richard Brown, prosecutor Vicki Melchiorre four psychiatric professional said they were confident Wascher was mentally ill, Russell Nee of South Windsor, whose son Thomas was badly injured by Wascher, expressed skepticism.

Wascher’s defense, Nee said, “does not pass the smell test. I find it disturbing how so many were quick to buy into the [mental health] defense.” He also said he thinks Wascher “gamed the system.”

Nee read into the record details from several psychiatric evaluations of Wascher and highlighted what he viewed as inconsistencies and contradictions. He also cited comments about Wascher past lying and wondered whether the Wascher’s illness was an act.

“Is Mr. Wascher crazy or criminal,” Nee asked. No one should have to go through what his son experienced, Nee said, and the prospect of Wacher being released from custody in a few years was horrifying, he said.

Patricia Gasparino asked the judge to commit Wascher for a long time so that no other family would have to experience what hers did. “It’s a miracle both boys survived,” she said.

Linda Liberatore-Wascher told the judge and the families of the victims that she was sorry about what happened. “This is a tragedy that happened to all of us,” she said.

She told the judge that she believes that with proper care, he son can recover and “be a very, very upstanding citizen in the future,” and expressed hope he would not be confined forever.

In committing Wascher to Whiting, Graham said a long period was necessary. He also noted that at the end of the 20-year commitment, the Psychiatric Security Review Board could recommend his commitment be extended.

Wascher was in the midst of a psychotic break, doctors testified, when he grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed Thomas Nee, 19, of South Windsor and Brandon Gasperino, 21, of New Fairfield while they were making a film for a school project on March 31.

They were setting up a shot in a bedroom inside the apartment when the attack occurred. Nee was the first to be attacked, suffering stab wounds to his chest and back. He was rushed into surgery and hospitalized for a week. Gasparino suffered three stab wounds to his back and single wounds to his chest, right arm and right hand.

Both victims continue to recover from their injuries. Nee is scheduled to undergo additional surgery in coming weeks.

David Owens can be reached at dowens@courant.com.

___

(c)2019 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)

Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.