The man who murdered five people in the Capital Gazette newsroom got turned down years earlier by a woman he wanted to go out with. After that, he saw photos of her drinking online and called the bank where she worked to say she was a drunk.
Before that, he hacked into the email accounts of a woman with whom he’d maintained an online relationship to find out she’d been doing the same with other men — and that she was married. He called her husband to expose her infidelity.
Mental health experts hired by his defense attorneys said the exchanges display his obsessive, delusional and twisted interpretation of justice. He thought he did the right thing, in his mind, by holding the women accountable, they said.
They contend similarly psychotic thinking led him to blast into the Annapolis news office and kill Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters — and to believe he was justified in doing it.
Dr. Sameer Patel, a forensic psychiatrist with the Maryland Department of Health, sees it differently.
The doctor sat down with Jarrod Ramos for 20 hours, listened to him and carefully documented his stated motivations for the atrocities of June 28, 2018, at the Annapolis news organization, which is part of Baltimore Sun Media. Then, he sat through 10 days of the 41-year-old’s sanity trial before prosecutors called him to the stand as their key witness before resting their case.
Throughout the six hours of his testimony Tuesday and Wednesday, Patel described Ramos as a callous, calculated and egotistical killer who couldn’t handle when things didn’t go his way.
Rather than having lost touch with reality, Ramos just overvalued himself and sought revenge when somebody slighted him, Patel said. It’s evidence of his narcissistic personality disorder.
“He’d expect people to behave a certain way and when they don’t, he’d get angry and lash back,” Patel said.
That’s what Patel said happened with the women, one of whom he pleaded guilty to harassing and whose case The Capital wrote about. It’s what happened when Prince George’s County judges rejected a barrage of his defamation lawsuits and when the state’s appellate courts shot down appeal after appeal, the doctor said.
After the Maryland Court of Appeals declined to take up his last appeal in 2016, Ramos, having sustained numerous narcissistic injuries, retired to his studio apartment in Laurel. He began plotting an attack on the newspaper, an idea that first crossed his mind as a fantasy in 2013, according to the testimony. He waited for his cat to die and an occasion when he expected the newsroom to be full of prominent people.
Public Defender Katy O’Donnell questioned Patel, at times engaging him in tense exchanges.
O’Donnell’s questioning aimed to remind the jury about earlier testimony that Ramos’ mental disorders, which yielded obsessions and delusions, led him to attack. She highlighted his suspicions about the courts and about the newspaper having it out for him.
“You can be suspicious about something that’s really happening and true,” Patel said.
O’Donnell pointed to an excerpt from Patel’s approximately 120-page report where he talked about the joy it gave him to find a survivor after shooting four people, running back for his shotgun and exclaiming something odd before executing the man point blank. She asked Patel whether he thought his statements meant something more and were evidence of his sickness.
“I think he interpreted it as a way to make a cruel joke before ending someone’s life,” Patel responded.
Ramos told Patel he took a moment to savor his last kill; it gave him extra personal pleasure.
“There’s no mental disorder that accounts for that,” the doctor said.
O’Donnell highlighted a passage where Patel described warning Ramos that his findings would go to prosecutors, defense attorneys and the judge. Still, Patel wrote, Ramos told him he’d hoped State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess was there during the attack so he could have killed her because she worked in the same office that prosecuted him for harassment.
“I think he wanted it in the report,” Patel said. “I think he got a rise out of it.”
Patel explained 21 reasons why he thinks Ramos is criminally responsible for the mass shooting because he appreciated the criminality of his conduct and was able to conform his behavior to the law.
He cited evidence that Ramos planned the attack for at least two years and managed to follow the law for more than five years after first fantasizing about the shooting. Patel said nothing about the attack suggested Ramos acted impulsively. Rather, everything about the shooting went according to his primary plan or three back-up plans.
Having studied responses to mass shootings, Ramos knew police eventually would arrive in droves and went to great lengths to ensure that his plan included a way for him to make it out alive.
“If someone says that they know that the police are responding, they’re planning for the police response, they plan on getting arrested, want to be arrested as safely as possible, of course they understand the criminality of their conduct,” Patel said. “It’s simple.”
O’Donnell talked up one of the conditions Patel diagnosed Ramos with: schizotypal personality disorder. She questioned him about its potentially psychotic features and its relationship to schizophrenia. She challenged Patel about whether he overlooked diagnosing similar conditions with similar symptoms, such as mild autism spectrum disorder.
“I could give any diagnosis in this book,” said Patel, holding up a copy of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, “and it doesn’t justify his behavior.”
Capital Gazette reporter Lilly Price contributed to this article.