Prof. Petryshyn legally insane, not guilty of wife's murder
by Andrij Kudla Wynnyckyj
JERSEY CITY, N.J. - More than a year after noted painter and critic Arcadia Olenska-Petryshyn was found dead in her bedroom, her husband, former Rutgers University mathematics professor Walter Petryshyn, was found not guilty of her murder by reason of insanity.
The decision was handed down on August 11 by Superior Court Judge Barnett Hoffman in a New Brunswick, N.J., courtroom. Defense attorney Barry Albin had contended Prof. Petryshyn suffered from "severe psychotic depression," which had begun several months before the fatal assault.
On May 6, 1996, local police found Ms. Olenska-Petryshyn in the couple's home in North Brunswick, N.J., dead of injuries to her head, caused by a hammer, and arrested Prof. Petryshyn.
In a report carried by The Weekly last year following the incident, it was noted that Prof. Petryshyn had become increasingly despondent and remote after discovering an error in a math textbook he had published in 1995.
On August 12, the New Jersey Star-Ledger's court reporter quoted Mr. Albin, a Woodbridge, N.J.-based attorney with the firm of Wilentz, Goldman and Spitzer, telling Judge Hoffman that the academic had become convinced he would be "a laughingstock in the mathematics community," grossly exaggerating the significance of the error.
Mr. Albin said Prof. Petryshyn began having delusions that his wife was conspiring to have him committed to a hospital, and that "he felt certain that was going to be the end of his freedom."
In the Star-Ledger item the attorney is quoted as saying that "it's really a tragic case of the raging effects of mental illness." Judge Hoffman added that it was "a very sad day."
The Star-Ledger reported that Middlesex County Prosecutor Thomas Kapsak agreed with Mr. Albin's contention, saying that four psychiatrists had examined Prof. Petryshyn and all of them had found him to be mentally ill.
Reached by The Weekly on August 20, Prosecutor Kapsak said the disturbed academic has been held at the Middlesex Adult County Correction Center since his arrest on the day of the tragic incident, except for a brief trip to a county psychologist's office.
Prosecutor Kapsak said Prof. Petryshyn has been handed over for examination in a state psychiatric hospital, where "it will be determined if he is a danger to himself and others, and what should be done with him from now on." A hearing will be held in about 30 to 60 days at which the formal decision on where Prof. Petryshyn is to be hospitalized will be made.
Mr. Kapsak said the case is now being treated as a civil, not a criminal matter. Mr. Albin did not return calls to his office.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 31, 1997, No. 35, Vol. LXV
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