At 1:43 p.m. on July 16, 2012, Damian McElrath, then 18 years old, called 911 and said he had stabbed Diane McElrath, 58, in the neck and torso at their home in the Zachary Woods Subdivision off Barrett Parkway, near the intersection of Dallas Highway, according to Cobb Police.
Damian McElrath then changed his clothes and smoked a cigarette outside the home while waiting for police, Cobb prosecutors said.
Diane McElrath was dead when police arrived at the house. The medical examiner testified McElrath’s mother had been stabbed more than 50 times.
The Cobb district attorney’s office said Damian McElrath suffers from mental illness and had been in and out of inpatient care in the months preceding the July 16, 2012, attack. Damian McElrath told detectives his mother said that morning she was trying to kill him with poison for years.
Damian McElrath’s attorney, Kevin Rodgers of Smyrna, had sought a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity during the trial, which began Monday.
Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Jesse Evans agreed with the defense that Damian McElrath was mentally ill at the time of the crime and may have been suffering from a delusional compulsion.
But Evans argued the defense did not meet the three elements required under the state’s delusional compulsion rule, specifically that the delusion, if true, would legally justify the act.
“Justification means self-defense,” Evans said. “He is guilty, but mentally ill. Being mentally ill never excuses criminal conduct.”
Cobb Superior Court Judge James Bodiford heard evidence over four days in the non-jury trial before finding Damian McElrath guilty on charges of murder, felony murder and aggravated assault, and immediately sentenced him to life in prison.
Cobb jail records show that less than two months before the killing, on May 29, 2012, Damian McElrath had been released after serving 27 days for a probation violation after pleading guilty in March to felony shoplifting, criminal trespass and obstruction.