By Nyier Abdou
A Bernards woman accused of suffocating her 12-year old son in a failed murder-suicide last year will seek an insanity defense, her attorney said yesterday.
Denise Volpicelli, 45, faces charges of first-degree murder for the killing of her son, Jack Kimzey, on Aug. 4, 2006, police said. Her attorney, Joseph Rotella, of Newark, said he will file notice seeking an insanity and diminished capacity defense on behalf of his client.
Volpicelli appeared before Superior Court Judge Robert B. Reed in Somerville yesterday for a status conference dressed in a Somerset County Jail jumper, her hands shackled behind her back.
Her shoulders hunched over, Volpicelli kept her eyes down, her graying light brown hair hiding her face. She did not look at her husband, Bill Kimzey, or her 19-year old daughter, Libby, who were seated in courtroom seats close by.
Rotella said he was collecting statements from witnesses to draw a picture of Volpicelli's state of mind at the time of her son's murder.
Described by friends as a devoted mother and typical "soccer mom," Volpicelli is said to have become unhinged by a diagnosis of epilepsy in her only son. Rotella said it was not clear how severe Jack Kimzey's epilepsy was, but Volpicelli was "going through a lot with regard to doctors and experts." "The triggering event here was her son's medical condition." Rotella said after the hearing. A forensic psychology specialist, Robert Sadoff, of Jenkintown, Pa., has evaluated Volpicelli and is expected to give a report on her case by March 30.
"Her life revolved around her children," Rotella said. A parent seeing their child react to a medical condition, Rotella said, may not have "the most lucid reaction." "She developed an opinion that this was a very terminal, painful condition for Jack," Rotella said.
An unconscious Volpicelli was discovered next to her son's lifeless body in the basement of her Basking Ridge home, her wrists, ankles and biceps slashed with a knife, police said. She was treated at Ann Klein Forensic Center in Trenton, a maximum security psychiatric facility, and transferred to the Somerset County Jail in November 2006.
Rotella said he was not a liberty to discuss whether Volpicelli has met with her family.
Rotella said he would like to see Volpicelli transferred back to a psychiatric facility for counseling "which I believe she badly needs," he said. He has not yet made such a request, however. "She's very depressed," Rotella said. "She is being medicated." But with the medication comes awareness and understanding, causing what Rotella called "a spiral effect."
"She understands better...what the charges are and what her actions are alleged to have been," Rotella said. The recognition, Rotella said, "almost makes her worse."
Another status conference is set for March 16.