A Wisconsin man has been ordered to spend the rest of his life in a mental health institution for stabbing four of his family members — two fatally — during a rage-filled outburst linked to his obsessive worries about the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report.
Adam Roth, 36, of Waukesha, recently pleaded guilty but not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect to two counts of intentional homicide and two counts of attempted intentional homicide, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
He also was charged with first-degree recklessly endangering safety and mistreatment of animals/causing death by use of a dangerous weapon – but those counts were dismissed as part of his plea deal, according to the paper.
On March 10, Roth and his wife, Dominique, were eating in their kitchen when he began stabbing her, according to a criminal complaint cited by the Journal Sentinel.
When Dominique’s mother, Gilane Popanda, and Popanda’s other daughters, Desiree and Deidre, yelled at Roth to stop his assault, he “turned on everybody,” according to the complaint.
Dominique, 34, Deidre, 26, and a family dog died from their injuries — while Desiree, 36, and Popanda, 62, were left with serious injuries.
“I don’t know that in my 28 years here in the DA’s office I’ve seen a more horrific crime than this,” Deputy District Attorney Ted Szczupakiewicz said during a sentencing hearing Monday.
“There is clear and convincing evidence that if Mr. Roth would be conditionally released, he would pose a significant risk. And that’s not a risk, at this point, I think anyone would hope the court would take,” added Szczupakiewicz, who sought a lifetime commitment.
Roth’s attorney Cameron Weitzner did not oppose the requested sentence.
“This case is about an individual who is suffering from mental illness and was suffering in a way that I don’t think any of us can understand,” Weitzner said, according to the news outlet.
“I hope that Mr. Roth’s treatment — whether that be in a hospital, whether that at some point be in the community — I hope that that can provide him the opportunity to heal, but also everyone else that this incident impacted,” the lawyer added.
Judge Laura Lau ruled that Roth be institutionalized for life on counts one and two, and ordered 60-year commitments for the other counts — all to be served concurrently.
“For everyone, I’m hoping today brings some healing to you,” she said. “I know it certainly doesn’t bring loved ones back, it doesn’t erase horrible memories or fears for the future. But I hope it does, to a certain degree, bring this to a conclusion.”
Roth’s father urged for some compassion at the sentencing.
“I wish all people could know, realize and understand that mental illness is real, not an excuse or a story to tell,” Rohn Roth said. “It is as real as someone who has cancer or heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure, or even broken bones.”
Roth’s aunt and godmother, Kristie Fischer, noted that the killer has a “deep compassion for people,” and supported her husband when he suffered from prostate cancer.
“It is my hope that the sentence given to Adam will be a balance between justice for this tragic event and compassion for the man behind a mental illness,” she said.
Meanwhile, Popanda said in a video call that she didn’t understand why Roth carried out his savage attack.
“But I do know that he murdered two of the most wonderful people in the world, my daughters were wonderful,” she said. “But at the same time, I didn’t want anything bad to happen to Adam. He was like my son.”
Popanda added: “What I saw that night was not the Adam I know or knew. What I saw was a monster.”
She has said Roth had been “acting obsessive” over the coronavirus for several weeks leading up to the incident, according to the complaint.
When interviewed after the stabbing, Roth told a detective that “it (the coronavirus) was coming and I had to save them.”
Two doctors who evaluated Roth’s mental health indicated that he had been experiencing “a … precipitous decline of psychiatric stability” in the months leading up to his attack.