Officer Paul Harrington - Murdered wife Wanda and son Brian
Vietnam veteran commits similar family slayings 24 years later
The former police officer's second murderous act came after a
maximum two-month sentence of psychiatric care
The Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) -- Authorities thought then-police officer Paul Harrington could lead a normal life after spending two months in a psychiatric facility for fatally shooting his wife and two children.
But 24 years later, Harrington ran out of medication, and his second wife and their 3-year-old son were shot dead too.
"The same thing happened in 1975," he said in a statement to police. "They should have put me away then."
On Oct. 15, Harrington's wife of 17 years, Wanda, and their 3-year-old son Brian lay dead on a couch in their Detroit duplex. Wanda had been shot in the temple while she slept. Brian had been shot three times in the head, police said.
Harrington, 53, called 911 and waited on his porch for officers. He faces two counts of first-degree murder and two felony firearm counts and is being held without bond.
The previous shooting was similar.
It was Dec. 19, 1975, when Harrington's 28-year-old wife Becky and their two daughters, Pamela, 9, and Cassandra, 4, were killed with Harrington's service revolver. The couple had recently separated.
Within minutes, Harrington turned himself in and took police to the murder scene.
Donald Cutler, Harrington's defense attorney in the original case, said he quickly realized his client was mentally disturbed.
"One evening at mealtime ... a phone rang, and he apparently had a flashback of what he called 'incoming mail,' and he thought he was under attack from the Vietcong," Cutler said he learned. "He took his service revolver he had with him and started shooting."
Recorder's Court Judge Susan Borman found Harrington innocent by reason of insanity in 1977 and sent him to a state hospital. Doctors released him after two months -- the maximum allowed by law.
Harrington, a Vietnam veteran and a Detroit police officer since 1972, was fired when he was charged with the triple homicide. But his life improved; he remarried and had two more children.
"He went on with his life, tried to work," said W. Frederick Moore, the Detroit attorney defending Harrington against the latest charges. "Along the way, he was married, he tried to deal with the situation."
But Harrington started having financial trouble. He was fired in April from his job at Hercules Drawn Steel in Livonia, where he worked for six years.
"The statement he gave police details a variety of setbacks, in my point of view, that impacted his ability to reasonably rationalize issues -- being fired, not having any money, worried about his family," Moore said. "It was taking a toll, he was going to the doctor, he tried to hang in there."
Detroit police Detective Sgt. Felix Kirk testified at a preliminary hearing that Harrington had run out of medications for his severe depression.
The drugs "keep me from hearing voices," Harrington told police.
"Had he been on his medication and had he had a (mental health) facility to utilize, probably it would have never happened again," Cutler said.