The mother of a schoolboy accused of 'kicking a girl's head like a football' in a brutal attack today describes the moment they together found her other son hanged.
Wayne Treacy, now 17, is alleged to have sought out and savagely beaten 15-year-old Josie Ratley unconscious after she told him to 'go visit your dead brother' in a taunting text message.
But today his mother Donna Powers told how Treacy was with her when she arrived at the car park of New Covenant Church in Pompano Beach on October 10, 2009 to find her eldest son, Michael Bell, 30, hanging dead in a tree.
'I got out of the car and went to go to the officer and then I realized,' Powers sad, ' "Michael's hanging in the tree".'
She said she collapsed into Wayne's arms before he yelled at the police officers: 'Cut him down, cut him down.'
Prosecutors have described how the South Florida teen kicked Miss Ratley's head 'as if it were a soccer ball and stomped on it as if he was putting out a fire' in the shocking 2010 attack that left her almost dead.
Later, a psychologist told the court Treacy was so deeply affected from witnessing his older brother's suicide that his grades nosedived and he showed classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr. Phil Heller said 17-year-old Wayne Treacy suffered flashbacks, anger outbursts, trouble sleeping, depression and a drop in grades that did now befit a boy whose IQ tests and gifted-level grades showed he was 'extremely bright' in all the years before the suicide. Heller said Treacy had difficulty controlling increasingly strong emotions.
'He may scream. He may hit the wall. He just has to deal with these feelings that are coming up inside of him,' Heller testified about the PTSD diagnosis. 'It can create suicide, It can cause homicide. It can be very distressing.'
Treacy, now 17, cried during prosecutor Maria Schneider's opening statements at day one of his first-degree attempted murder trial yesterday, which was attended by his parents and Ms. Ratley's mother, Hilda Gotay.
'He grabbed her head by the hair and started smashing it to the surface...kicked her head as if it were a soccer ball and stomped on it as if he was putting out a fire,' Mr. Schneider told the court, according to NBC Miami.
Defense attorneys said they would use the insanity defense, claiming Treacy was suffering post traumatic stress disorder when he beat Ms. Ratley to within an inch of her life at a bus stop outside Deerfield Beach Middle School on March 17, 2010.
'He was generally a nice kid, but after his brother died, things changed,' attorney Russell Williams told the court.
Police said Treacy, who is being tried as an adult, sought out Ms. Ratley, then 15, after she sent him text messages about his older brother Michael, who had recently killed himself.
Ms. Ratley suffered severe brain damage in the attack and spent over 40 days at the pediatric intensive care unit at Broward General Medical Center.
He has been held without bond since the attack and faces up to five decades behind bars if convicted.
Mr. Williams added that PTSD mean the teenager struggled to control his emotions and actions.
Some of Treacy's friends testified that they had received text messages about his intent to hurt Ms. Ratley, but they thought he wouldn't go through with the crime.
Classmate, William Luft, told the court that Treacy texted him saying he would snap Ms. Ratley's neck and 'stomp her head'.
The teenager's then girlfriend testified about a text message she said she received from him just after the assault. 'He said, 'I just tried to kill someone,'' she testified on Monday.
if convicted, Treacy could get 50 years in prison. If not, he likely would still spend years in a state mental institution, possibly even as long as he would spend in prison, attorneys and legal experts say.
'They often have a difficult time getting out,' said attorney Richard Rosenbaum, who has represented defendants claiming the insanity defense and is not involved in the Treacy case.
he said few insanity defenses success because defendants not only must show a mental illness or defect but must also prove they didn't know right from wrong.
'That's usually the prong that tripsn up most of the people who raise insanity as a defense,' Rosenbaum said. 'It's fairly easy for the state to show someone knew right from wrong. They knew 'Thou shalt not kill.''
Treacy's defense claims he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, rooted in his older brother's recent suicide, when he became enraged outside the bus stop, by an exchange of text messages with Ms. Ratley, whom he did not know.
in one of the texts, Ms. Ratley tells Treacy 'now go visit your dead brother' leading Treacy to respond, 'You're (expletive) dead! I swear to God, I'm going to kill you. Your (expletive) is cold, dead meat.'
Yet Treacy threatened Ms. Ratley several times during their 45-minute text exchange before she mentioned the brother.
The whole thing started because Treacy was trying to get in touch with another girl, Kayla Manson, whom he had been dating. Ms. Ratley sometimes let Ms. Manson use her phone to contact Treacy.
Ms. Ratley repeatedly referred to the then-15-year-old as a 'rapist' for dating Manson who was then 13. Eventually Treacy texts back, 'Why are you trying to get yourself killed? I will find you. I will mess you up, you will regret crossing me.'
And, prosecutors say, Treacy calmly laid plans to do just that over the next few hours.
Evidence shows that Treacy - a gifted student who did not attend his high school that day - did computer searches on ways to efficiently kill people barehanded, wrote up a short will and hinted to several friends about his violent plans.
'I'm going to jail for murder,' Treacy said in one text to a friend, according to investigative records.
Most of the friends say they didn't take the threats seriously.
'He's never hurt anyone before and I wouldn't think he would ever hurt someone,' said Monica Montero, who received several texts from Treacy that day.
Prosecutors say Treacy dress in black, including martial arts fighting gloves and his brother's steel-toed boots to ensure maximum damage.
He then rode his bicycle to the middle school and found Manson asking her to take him to Ms. Ratley. Surveillance video shows Ms. Manson leading the much taller Treacy through a crowd of students at the school bus stop, a few moments after Ms. Ratley also passed by. The beating itself is not captured on camera.
Numerous witnesses say Treacy grabbed Ms. Ratley by the neck, knocked her to the ground and began stomping and kicking her. A teacher managed to knock Treacy away from the girl, who was by then lying unconscious in a pool of blood.
The teacher, Walter Welsh, then hustled Treacy into the school office and waited for police and paramedics to respond.
Mr. Welsh said is was clear immediately the attack was planned. 'He was on a mission,' he said.
Later in a videotaped police interview, Treacy claimed he blacked out during the attack and that he never intended to hit Ms. Ratley. Just before the investigator came into the interview room, however, Treacy quietly says, 'I'm a monster. I'm a monster.'
Ms. Ratley gradually recovered but still has mental problems that prosecutors say may prevent her from testifying.
Manson, the girl who pointed Ms. Ratley out, faces an August trial on charges of being Treacy's accomplice.
For Treacy's insanity defense to succeed, experts say it's crucial that jurors are convince he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder for some time after his brother's suicide.
In pretrial hearings, a defense expert has testified Treacy likely was in a period of detachment during which he didn't know what he was doing. Those periods can last for hours or days, the expert said.
In a taped jailhouse phone call with his mother, Treacy says he is angry at his brother because the suicide messed up his head.
'If it wasn't for (unclear), I'd be just as normal as I ever was and this would never have happened,' Treacy says, according to a transcript.
The prosecution's job is easier, said Nova Southeastern University law professor Robert Jarvis.
'The state has to keep reminding the jury that the defendant is (an attempted) killer,' he said. 'In the end, I think the defense fails in this case because lots of people lose a loved one and still function without engaging in a crime and jurors know that.
Coincidentally, the attack on Ms. Ratley happened several months after a group of students at the same school, Deerfield Beach Middle School, set a classmate on fire, nearly killing him. Three boys have been convicted of felonies in that case.