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Bennett trial: Victims, experts take the stand

October 28, 2010
Jenn Brookens — Staff Writer

FAIRMONT - More testimony was heard Wednesday in the trial against Dr. Douglas Eugene Bennett, the man who was reportedly suffering from a mental illness when he attacked an elderly couple in their rural Truman home in June 2008.

Law enforcement officials and two psychologists who saw Bennett following the incident testified Wednesday to his behaviors. But the most detailed accounts came from the victims themselves.

Marcella Sauck, 87, and her son Mark, who shot Bennett in the leg to stop the attack, took the witness stand Wednesday. The elderly man assaulted, Elmer Sauck, was in the courtroom, but did not testify.

Marcella Sauck said it was a loud bang that brought her out of her room that late June evening, and she saw a shirtless man (Bennett) who was calling for help. She testified that she went to the kitchen to call 911, but Bennett followed her there.

"I asked, 'Who are you and what are you doing in my house?'" she said. "He said, 'I'm here to save you.' I told him, 'I don't need your help,' and I tried to run, but he caught me."

She described how she was choked, kicked and stomped, and how her eyes were gouged so severely she went blind in one eye and needed it replaced with a glass eye.

"He wasn't saying anything," she said of Bennett during the attack. "His eyes were wild-looking; you couldn't even tell the color of them."

When her husband came in, Bennett began attacking him instead, and Sauck was able to escape to her son's house nearby. By this time, Mark Sauck was awake because the family dog was barking frantically.

"I'd never heard her bark like that before," he said.

When he went to check on the dog, he saw his mother coming toward the house, limping, holding one arm and her head. She told him an intruder was in the house and attacking them. He grabbed his revolver and went to the house, where he saw Bennett attacking his father.

"His eyes were very dilated, and his mouth was black," Mark Sauck testified. "I don't know much about the drug culture, but I thought we were dealing with a meth addict."

By this time, Bennett had started ranting that he was God, and that he couldn't be hurt. He was also taking swings at Sauck and trying to grab his gun.

"I kept yelling at him that I was going to shoot," Mark Sauck said. "My voice was hoarse the next day I was yelling so hard. I shot into the floor, he kept coming, and I shot him in the leg. He went down."

Mark Sauck kept watch until police arrived. He testified that Bennett was still talking but it was all "jibberish."

Deputies and correction officers who were in charge of watching Bennett while he was in St. Marys in Rochester testified that Bennett's behavior fluctuated between agitated to docile. One testified that Bennett asked if he killed anyone and said, "Thank God," when he was told he hadn't, and that he was worried about criminal charges, his job and his reputation in Fairmont. But other officers testified to Bennett fighting everyone, spitting water in one officer's face and referred to himself as "the most powerful demon killer." There were also times when he asked to have any red lights in his room covered because he thought they were demons.

But psychologist Dr. George Komaradis of Mankato and psychiatrist Dr. Tara Buhl of St. Peter both testified that there is no clear diagnosis for what happened to Bennett during his psychotic episodes in June and September 2008. Komaradis was the doctor who treated Bennett when the courts were attempting to determine if Bennett was capable of standing trial, while Buhl treated Bennett when he was in the treatment facility in St. Peter.

Komaradis testified that Bennett's episodes were atypical, since they cleared up quicker than usual for most people who suffer such episodes. He further testified that he attempted to narrow the cause down to a substance use psychosis, a mental illness or if it was an organic condition, such as an allergic reaction.

"I wasn't sure of the proper diagnosis," he said.

Buhl also testified that while Bennett was on anti-psychotic drugs when she began treating him in fall 2008, she took him off the drugs, and he had no incidents of erratic behavior for the six months he was kept in St. Peter.

"He was asking for theories on what happened, or how to treat it," Buhl said, "He was fishing for an explanation."

But when asked if Bennett showed signs of a mental illness, she said, "None whatsoever."

Testimony and closing arguments are expected to wrap up today.



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