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The 31-year-old man who took the life of his mother in her Lower Makefield Township home in 2016 has “pleaded guilty but mentally ill to third-degree murder”. On Jan. 22, 2018, Zachary Cope confessed that his mental illness had made him see his mother Rebecca Cope as an enemy that made him attack and stab her multiple times in the kitchen. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Post the incident, the man had told the investigators that he murdered an assassin posing as his mother who was hired to kill him. According to his statement, the female “imposter” had told him to “rub olive oil” on the cutting board that his “real mother” would have never asked him to do. He admitted that he had attacked his mother with a cutting board and a frying pan first before cutting her throat with a knife and stabbing her 70 times.
After the incident, the son fled in a pair of shorts, blanket and flip-flops and told a passing motorist that he had killed his mother. Covered in blood, he was later found by the police in a nearby driveway. As per the District Attorney’s office, on reaching the place of the incident at about 3:00 p.m. local time, the police found the mother lying face-down in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor with dozens of wounds on her upper body. On being interrogated, the man admitted to attacking and killing his mother. He also told the detectives about the weapon that he used in the incident and its exact location. Cope has been charged with criminal homicide and possession of an instrument of crime.
Sentencing deferred as judge awaits mental health evaluation report
While the judge accepted the man’s guilty plea, his sentencing has been deferred until March 26, 2018. In the interim period, Cope’s mental state would be evaluated and will act as the basis of the treatment that he will receive during his incarceration. However, it is likely that Zachary will be awarded a sentence of 10 to 40 years.
According to Rebecca’s older sister Julie Knepp, the family knew that Zachary had problems and was not surprised when he was diagnosed. She informed that he had suffered a lot as a child when his parents divorced and his mother was always desperate to be a “good mother to her son”. According to Knepp, Rebecca was a “devoted and conscientious mother” who spent much of her time “renovating her home” and “tending her gardens with her special needs son.”
While Knepp said that she was glad that her nephew was taking responsibility by accepting his crime, mental illness should not be used as a pass to “kill your mother.” She also told the judge that she would be there for her nephew if he needed her.
Schizophrenia and violence
A serious mental health disorder, schizophrenia affects a person thoughts, feelings and actions. Characterized by a combination of cognitive, behavioral and emotional dysfunctions, a person with schizophrenia may have difficulty in distinguishing between real and imaginary situations, may seem unresponsive or withdrawn and even face difficulty in expressing normal emotions in social situations. Such individuals are “not usually violent” however, some symptoms like delusions of persecution are associated with violent behavior. Though the possibility of violence among people with schizophrenia is small, if the affected person does resort to violence, it is usually directed at family members and tends to take place at home.
Help is just a call away
Difficult to diagnose and with no definite cure, schizophrenia treatment usually targets the symptoms of the illness. If you know someone suffering from any kind of mental health illness like schizophrenia, don’t hesitate to call the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline. Our representatives at the 24/7 mental health treatment center can answer all your questions about various mental health conditions, help you recognize the symptoms and assist you identify the best rehabilitation centers, as per your needs. You can call at our 247 mental health treatment helpline (855) 653-8178 or chat online with our trained counselors to know about a licensed facility near you.