McKeever has second thoughts about lawyer, insanity plea

David McKeever, who faces charges in the stabbing death of a New London woman in 2015 and told a judge last month that he would be pursuing an insanity defense, has changed his mind.  

The 49-year-old New London man, who is accused of fatally stabbing his longtime girlfriend, Delma Murphy, at their home on 53 Cole St. in November 2015, wrote a letter to New London Superior Court Judge Hillary B. Strackbein indicating he wants to withdraw his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and is not happy with the advice of his attorney, M. Fred DeCaprio from the public defender's office.

During McKeever's court appearance Wednesday, DeCaprio stood with him and told the court that based on what McKeever wrote, it is probably appropriate that he be assigned a new attorney. DeCaprio said McKeever should discuss his defense with his new lawyer and asked that the six-page, handwritten letter, which the court received on Aug. 10, remain sealed until McKeever's new attorney is appointed and has a chance to review the letter.

Strackbein ordered the letter sealed. She said it does appear the attorney-client relationship has broken down and told McKeever he would be getting a new lawyer "paid for by the state."

Prosecutor Lawrence J. Tytla said the state would not stand in the way of any defense that McKeever and his new attorney pursue.

"Mr. McKeever should not take away from today's procedure that if he's not happy with advice of counsel, he can't simply write a missive and get a new counsel," Tytla said.

McKeever, who appeared calm and coherent, thanked the judge and shook hands with DeCaprio before judicial marshals escorted him back to the courthouse lockup. Murphy's relatives, who have been attending all of McKeever's court appearance, filed out of the courtroom.

McKeever had lived with Murphy, who was 46, for 11 years and referred to her as his wife when, police said, he stabbed her multiple times, wrapped her body in towels and a blanket and left her in a bedroom for several days. A friend concerned with her welfare went to the home on Nov. 18, 2015, and found her body.

Following his arrest, McKeever refused to speak to his attorneys and acted psychotic, according to court records and testimony. He spent six months at Whiting Forensic Division, where clinicians reported they were able to restore him to competency.

He is hearing- and sight-impaired because he was born with a congenital disorder known as Usher Syndrome, according to a court document.

Should McKeever successfully pursue the insanity defense, he would be committed to the Whiting Forensic Division of Connecticut Valley Hospital rather than sentenced to a prison term.

k.florin@theday.com

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