When Marina Aksman psychologically "attacked" Daniel Baker by calling him bipolar and threatening to end his relationship with her daughter, the result, according to psychiatrist Alexander Obolsky, was rage.
"It's an extremely dangerous situation," Obolsky said.
The defense's first witness in Baker's first-degree murder trial testified Monday that Baker suffered from three major mental defects when he bludgeoned the 50-year-old Aksman to death in her Vernon Hills home on April 1, 2010.
Obolsky said Baker's cognitive disorder and personality disorders at the time of the murder, described as schizotypal and borderline, affected his ability to appreciate the criminality of his actions. Defense attorneys argue Baker, 24, is guilty by reason of insanity.
Baker's mental illness meant the Deerfield man was "painfully conscious" he was bizarre and strange -- Obolsky described him as a "nerd on steroids" -- and desperately needed his relationship with Kristina Aksman to show he was normal.
"She was his badge that he is a normal individual," Obolsky said.
Despite having above-average intelligence, Baker also was afraid of being abandoned, overwhelmed when faced with decisions and often isolated. Among the unusual behavior he has demonstrated, Obolsky said, were his belief that correctional officers and inmates could control his mind by inserting their thoughts.
Given the circumstances, he said, it wasn't a surprise that Marina Aksman's attempts to end Baker's relationship triggered a rage-fueled, psychotic and disassociated response. After the murder, Obolsky said, Baker's episode quickly passed.
"He sees what happened as something that just happened, an oops," Obolsky said.
Baker showed signs of unusual behavior as young as 3 months, his mother, Diane Weber, testified.
Weber said he was on a slew of psychotropic medications from about 3 years old to the time he decided to stop them at 14 or 15. He largely controlled his behavior at school but had fits of rage at home. Toward the end of high school, he sometimes had suicidal thoughts and began hearing voices.
"He said he didn't need a telephone to talk to Kristina," Weber said.
Baker has been itching to take the witness stand and nearly did against the advice of defense attorney Ed Genson. But when he told Lake County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Shanes that testifying was in fact following Genson's advice, Baker privately met with his defense team and decided he wouldn't testify at the moment. Baker also went against Genson's advice last week by waiving a jury trial.
Due to a scheduling conflict Tuesday, Baker's decision on whether to testify won't come until Wednesday morning. The defense may rest its case after that.
Before Obolsky and Weber testified, the prosecution's 14th and final witness was forensic pathologist Eupil Choi, who performed Marina Aksman's autopsy. He described pre-mortem injuries in several photographs beginning with her face, much of which was missing due to the attack with a baseball bat. She also had bruising on her hands and knee.