'Psycho' killer plans appeal

By Anna Leask

The student who slashed his new bride's throat and left her to die on a hiking trail will appeal against his murder conviction.

Auckland man Blazej Kot was found guilty on Tuesday of second-degree murder and faces a possible life sentence in a US prison.

His lawyer Joe Joch said his client maintained he was suffering from psychosis when he killed Caroline Coffey last June.

Kot, 25, murdered his 28-year-old wife while they were jogging in Taughannock Falls State Park near their home in Ithaca, New York.

He then set fire to their apartment to hide evidence of the killing, including blood-stained clothing and computer searches for information about how to cut throats.

The former Macleans College and Auckland University student was studying for a PhD in computer science at Cornell University in Ithaca but dropped out after a paper was rejected.

The couple married at a civil ceremony in the US in October 2008 before having a fairytale beach ceremony a month before Coffey's murder.

During a 12-day trial Joch said Kot believed "unseen forces" were watching him and wanted to test him by having bad things happen to him.

In his mind, his wife's death was the only thing that would "free" him, the Ithaca Journal reported.

"And then the thought came to his mind about how the killing would happen ... on the jogging trail with the knife," Joch told the jury.

Kot told defence psychiatrist Dr Rory Houghtalen the idea to kill Coffey "crystallised" as he lay awake in bed beside her, the Journal reported.

"At some point, I started thinking ... 'My life sucks, wouldn't it be great if something tragic happens to Caroline?"' he said.

"It seemed it would provide me a reason or excuse to stop this PhD and change my life."

Coffey's friend David Rossi attended the trial and was "thrilled" when the verdict was read.

"Finally justice was served, although I don't feel any sentence doled out can be enough for the animal-like atrocity he committed.

"It made me sick to my stomach hearing the testimony and the excuses given for his actions."

During evidence, Kot revealed how his wife yelled "Blazej, what are you doing?" when he started the fatal attack, the Journal reported.

He said he felt "detached" during the incident and heard himself tell Coffey: "I swear it isn't me".

He killed his wife as she lay on the ground, resisting and shouting for him to stop. He "went into overdrive" as she fought back.

"The thing I remembered most was the warmth of the blood. It really freaked me out."

He told the court he planned to cut his own throat at the park and leap into a gorge, but the knife was too blunt. Police captured him soon after he returned for a second attempt.

Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson said Kot faced a minimum non-parole term of 15 to 25 years in prison but could be held for life.

Rossi said Kot was guilty of a "textbook murder cover-up".

"There were never any signs that he in any way had anything relatively close to a psychiatric problem ... it was just a made-up story, and the jury clearly recognised that."

He said his friend was "worth her weight in gold".

"I'm sure I speak for her friends and family when I say that she left a great void in all of our lives when she was taken from us."

Dimitra Livanos Hollow was friends with Coffey for 15 years and talks to her brother Paul most days. She was relieved the ordeal was over for the victim's family. "I was also relieved ... that the jury was able to see that this was a premeditated, horrific crime on my friend."

Kot is in Tompkins County Correctional Facility awaiting sentencing. Joch said his client would not answer media questions about the case. "He has been very reticent all along, he is a very private person by nature. It has certainly been difficult enough for the defence psychiatrist to get enough information out of him for the trial."

Kot was supported during the trial by his parents, Barbara and Leszek, who live in east Auckland. Joch said they were private people who were trying to get through the tragedy. They had left the US but will return for sentencing next month.

Wilkinson said she believed justice was served by the conviction. "The evidence that Kot planned the killing days in advance was very strong, and, for at least a short time, he tried to destroy the evidence.

"He was appropriately held accountable by the jury. In the end, though, there aren't any winners - Caroline is dead, Blazej threw his life away, and the families are devastated."

Two weddings and a funeral

November 1984: Blazej Kot born in Zaire. His family later moves to New Zealand and he attends Macleans College and Auckland University.

October 2008: Kot marries Caroline Coffey in a civil ceremony in Ithaca, New York. The pair met while studying at Ivy League Cornell University.

May 2009: Kot and Coffey hold a second ceremony in Costa Rica with 30 close friends and family.

June 2009: Kot murders Coffey while they are out jogging and sets fire to their apartment to destroy evidence. He is arrested soon after and charged.

April 2010: After a 12-day trial, a jury takes eight hours to find him guilty of second degree murder.

May 2010: Kot is due to be sentenced to a possible life sentence in a US prison.

The case for convicting a killer

Prosecution

Tompkins County Assistant District Attorney Andrew McElwee said there was "objective, credible evidence" to prove Kot knew what he was doing when he killed his wife.

He said Kot planned his crime because he was unhappy with his life, and his explanations of psychosis and mental disorders were "fantastical".

Pathologist Dr James Terzian, who carried out Coffey's autopsy, said she was struck in the head with a blunt object while the pair were jogging and then her throat was cut.

Defence

Lawyer Joseph Joch says Kot was suffering an extreme emotional disturbance when he killed his wife. He believed she had been replaced with an identical looking imposter and was in a psychosis brought on by anti-malarial drugs when he slashed her throat and tried to kill himself.

- Herald on Sunday

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