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Delgado defense witnesses describe his delusions

TAMPA — He made his wife and children sleep on the floor because there were demons outside, people in trees and eyes peering through the windows.

He wore gloves, walked with a cane and said he was Abel from the Old Testament.

He said his kids had goat legs that needed to be cut off.

The family of Humberto Delgado Jr. witnessed episodes of mental illness while he lived in his native St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the family members told jurors Wednesday.

Delgado's attorneys are using the testimony to defend him against charges he faces in the 2009 shooting death of Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts.

If the jury decides he was incapable of first-degree murder and finds him guilty of a lesser charge, he would be spared the death penalty.

Delgado's problems, they all said, began when he was an officer in the Virgin Islands Police Department. He spoke of corruption on the force and said Masons were out to get him. Paranoia followed him to work at an oil refinery and then the U.S. Army. He lost his jobs, his marriage, his place to stay and, ultimately, his freedom.

His family said he stopped taking his medication because it made him feel like a zombie, and that he didn't accept the fact that he was mentally ill. Annette Delgado, his stepmother, said he stopped trusting his loved ones.

"He thought we were making up these stories,'' she said.

Like the time they found him walking barefoot on the highway. And the time he took all the doors off his car.

He thought 50 Cent, the rapper, was a Mason out to kill him.

He thought his own grandmother was trying to poison him.

His friend Juan Luis Rosado once saw him in the middle of his yard, burning his belongings. "So I said, 'Beltito, what's wrong with you?' He said, 'The demons is out.' "

Rosado said he watched Delgado open a cage and toss two live chickens in the fire. "They have demons in them," he said he heard Delgado say.

Alarmed, Rosado took Delgado to his grandmother's house and made sure to ask for the gun Delgado carried. He said Delgado gave it to him and said, "Take the gun, and if anybody gets in the way, you shoot them, right, because they have spirits going on all over the place."

Rosado got a call from Delgado the morning before the Aug. 19, 2009, shooting. Delgado usually called, speaking of monsters, and Rosado didn't have time that day to deal with it.

Delgado said he wanted to return to the island. But Rosado had to go.

Rosado burst into tears on the witness stand. "I feel so guilty that I could not come for him."

Prosecutors pressed Delgado's family about his behavior when he was committed to a hospital. It was the police who showed up to take him.

He struggled, said his friend and fellow officer Juan Cruz. It took two people to restrain him.

"Isn't it fair to say that Mr. Delgado has a resentment toward law enforcement?" Assistant State Attorney Karen Stanley asked his stepmother.

"I would say that he has a distrust because he had worked in the field," the stepmother said. "But I would never say resentment. That is a strong word."

"Yes," responded the prosecutor. "It is."

The trial was interrupted toward the end of the day when some jurors said they heard mumbling coming from a television videojournalist. A cameraman with Bay News 9 was kicked out of the courtroom and told not to return, and the jurors were individually questioned about what they heard.

Bay News 9 issued a statement apologizing, saying the station was taking "remedial action" to make sure it didn't happen again.

The defense will continue today with more mental health testimony.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Delgado defense witnesses describe his delusions 11/09/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 11:55pm]
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