Attorney argues abuse defendant is mentally ill

Great Falls Tribune/September 25, 2002
By Katie N. Johannes

Cascade County's chief public defender does not deny that former Great Falls resident Richard Arthur Sandrock sexually abused two young girls for seven years, but argues that he is innocent because he is severely mentally ill.

During opening arguments Tuesday in Sandrock's District Court trial, Eric Olson said Sandrock was "in another dimension when he was committing these acts."

However, a team of doctors at Warm Springs state hospital, who observed Sandrock for more than three months, said that he is not suffering from any mental disease, and that he displayed "grossly exaggerated symptoms or totally fabricated symptoms," Deputy Cascade County Attorney Gina Bishop said.

Sandrock's charges include 12 counts of sexual assault and three of rape of minors. The abuse started in 1989, when the girls were 8 and 10, Bishop said.

The 62-year-old also is charged with two counts of tampering with witnesses for allegedly writing threatening letters to his victims in attempts to dissuade them from testifying against him.

Sandrock sat at the defense table doodling on a yellow legal pad. His thin gray hair fell over the strap of a black eye patch that covers his left eye. His movements were slow and silent, and he did not react to arguments or testimony.

In an initial evaluation in November, private Missoula psychologist Dr. William Stratford diagnosed Sandrock as a paranoid schizophrenic. Then Judge Thomas McKittrick sent him to the state hospital in Warm Springs.

To convince victims not to tell anyone about the abuses, Sandrock sent them letters, one of which listed defenses he was considering if the matter went to trial: "Religious freedom, mental disease, pretrial indictment delay. I shall wait and see which best suits the needs of our world."

Tuesday, Olson asked jurors to find Sandrock "not guilty because he is seriously mentally ill and needs help."

Sandrock told his victims that he was "the high lord of Yawe," and that he had the power to move objects across the room with his mind. He also told them "there is an invisible ship from the vortex that would carry him to where God was," Olson said.

He argued that Stratford's diagnosis resulted from valid testing, and Sandrock had a psychotic episode during an interview.

Olson said one of the prosecution witnesses, Warm Springs psychiatrist Dr. Virginia Hill, testified before ever seeing Sandrock that he is not mentally ill. He also said that a private psychiatrist from Billings, Dr. Joseph Rich, will testify for the prosecution that Sandrock is mentally ill, but that his illness wasn't active at the time of the assaults.

Bishop said Sandrock molested the girls as part of a daily routine. He would try to hypnotize them before assaulting them, she said.

She told jurors that Sandrock called himself "the Fourth Son of God," and told the girls that it was their purpose to satisfy God's sexual pleasures through him. They would go to hell if they didn't, he allegedly said.

He allegedly forced the girls to have anal and oral intercourse, and ordered a woman, who he also allegedly threatened and "brainwashed," to teach one of the girls sexual maneuvers and to have herself and the girl tattooed. One girl showed police tattoos on her lower abdomen, including one of a ram's head with the words "Richard Sandrock."

He allegedly called the girls his wives and gave them gold rings to show that they were his property.

The prosecution's first witness, one of the victims, identified a crushed and burned ring as the one he had given her as a child.

She said she had taken off the ring as a sixth-grader and forgotten about it. Uncovering it among her personal things one day, she tried to destroy it, she said.

The trial is expected to last most of the week.

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