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Lawyers debate killer's state of mind

LARGO — Dennis George Roache came and went through the kitchen window.

That's because he boarded up the front door with 2-by-4s. He thought he was being poisoned and spied on, his children were being sexually abused and that others were trying to convert him to homosexuality.

Delusional, paranoid, schizophrenic, he imagined hearing voices and menaced those around him — even on paper.

He filed dozens of lawsuits, and even sued his stepmother.

Yet Roache, 40, also married, learned a trade, had jobs, paid bills, wrote love letters, got along with many and appeared intelligent. After all, he learned to file all those lawsuits on his own.

Those were the starkly different portraits of Roache painted by the defense and prosecution during his first-degree murder trial Tuesday.

The defense is trying to spare Roache from a life sentence for decapitating 18-year-old Gregory Shannon with a machete in 2002.

Roache, twice found incompetent to stand trial, was found competent earlier this year.

Which is why the unflattering portrait of Roache came from his own lawyers. The defense wants the jury to find Roache not guilty by reason of insanity.

They spent the past two days using family and friends to tell jurors how dangerously unstable Roache was years before his 2002 arrest.

How did police evict Roache from his boarded-up apartment?

"A small army," said ex-apartment manager Angela Waller.

But each time his own lawyers tore Roache down, prosecutors used those same witnesses to build him back up.

The state doesn't deny Roache is mentally ill, but used the defense's witnesses to show the jury examples of Roache acting rationally, normally. Thus, the state argued, Roache could have killed with premeditation.

The defense, in turn, has already admitted Roache killed Shannon — as has the defendant's father, Ellis Roache.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at (727) 893-8472 or

Lawyers debate killer's state of mind 09/30/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 3:42pm]
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