Defense: Accused killer suffered trauma as child


DOVER — A clinical psychologist testified Monday how severe emotional and physical trauma since childhood has affected a man accused of first-degree murder in a Milford home invasion two years ago.

Abdul T. White’s defense team began its case Monday by introducing the psychologist, Dr. Victoria Reynolds, a North Carolina-based trauma consultant. She cited a review of more than 1,000 documents and an interview with the defendant in preparation for her testimony.

Mr. White, 32, is accused of fatally shooting a man during the Aug. 8, 2015, home invasion allegedly perpetrated for the theft of 50 pounds of marijuana. The defendant claims he was coerced into joining another man who triggered the gunshot to the head that killed John G. Harmon.

The second week of the Superior Court jury trial opened Monday with attorney Alexander Funk eliciting Dr. Reynolds’ opinions on Mr. White’s world view based on what was described as an immensely troubled background.

She portrayed a life full of sexual, drug and alcohol abuse around and involving the defendant, lack of able caretakers or safe space, and excessive punishments from family members among other issues during Mr. White’s upbringing in the Philadelphia area.

Mr. White’s mother was 14 or 15 years old when she gave birth. Child Protective Services later recommended that she enter foster care for he inability to properly raise her child, according to testimony.

His father was 32 at the time he was born and his mother engaged in prostitution to feed their drug habits, Dr. Reynolds was told.

“As I understand the law, that’s statutory rape,” Dr. Reynolds testified of his early birth mother.

Abdul T. White

Drug addiction was a constant problem with his mother and father, who physically and emotionally abused him while regularly moving and living in a poverty-stricken environment, often in Section 8 housing. Dr. Reynolds testified that Mr. White attended 10 schools between first and ninth grade.

“I can’t imagine how (the child) learned much of anything going to that many schools,” she said.

A stepfather 10 years or less older than Mr. White proved to be similarly abusive, Dr. Reynolds said she found, and other family members and their friends took advantage of him sexually, along with a 40-something year-old man who allegedly groomed him for eventual sexual abuse.

When he stayed with his grandmother, Dr. Reynolds was told, he was ordered to observe just two rules — make curfew at night and don’t smoke marijuana in front of her.

He remembered tasting his first beer as a 7-year-old after buying liquor for his allegedly alcoholic grandmother, Dr. Reynolds reported.

When Mr. White was caught smoking in elementary school, Dr. Reynolds said she was told, his mother made him eat the cigarette as punishment.

She also supposedly hit him so hard one time he thought his nose was broken, Mr. White apparently recounted to Dr. Reynolds.

At age 8, Mr. White claimed he learned that his father had died of a heroin overdose that was supposedly poisoned as revenge, Dr. Reynolds recounted, which created a dislike for drug dealers.

The doctor described Mr. White as constantly “walking on egg shells” in an attempt not to enrage his mother or father and avoid painful punishments. Also, he lacked a “willingness to trust and follow directions of authority figures” due to his negative adult role models growing up, Dr. Reynolds testified.

Last week, prosecutors pointed to DNA and eyewitnesses that supposedly identified Mr. White as the suspect in the incident in the 500 block of North Walnut Street.

Charges against Mr. White include two first-degree murder charges, along with several counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of a felony, second-degree kidnapping, first-degree reckless endangering, aggravated menacing, endangering the welfare of a child, first-degree conspiracy, wearing a disguise, impersonating a police officer and criminal mischief.

Nine people, including family members, sat in on the trial in apparent support of the late Mr. Harmon.

Attorney Edward Gill is serving as defense co-counsel, with Deputy Attorneys General Lindsay Taylor and Jason Cohee prosecuting the case. Judge Jeffrey Clark is overseeing the proceedings.

In court documents, Mr. White had home addresses listed in Philadelphia and in the first block of NASCAR Lane in Magnolia.

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