Plum woman accused of killing dad is ‘despondent’ and on suicide watch, psychiatrist says
Christina Nicassio — the 27-year-old youth soccer coach accused of stabbing her dad to death at his Plum home — believes “the people in the TV” told her she was an “evil person,” a psychiatrist testified Monday.
Psychiatrist Christine Martone said Nicassio appears to be experiencing a psychotic episode and suffers from long-term mental health issues including major depressive disorder.
“She understands her charges, but she’s not able to talk to her attorney,” Martone told Allegheny Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning.
Manning ruled Nicassio is mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Nicassio — who has been placed on suicide watch at the Allegheny County Jail — must complete at least 90 days of treatment at Torrance State Hospital in Derry before the homicide trial can proceed, Manning ruled.
“She is going to be the first in line — the minute there’s a bed open, she’s going,” Martone told the judge in his Downtown courtroom.
Nicassio, a former Pitt Panther and Plum High School graduate, is facing homicide and weapons charges for the May 6 stabbing death of her father, Anthony Nicassio, 69, a UPMC internist and primary care physician.
Martone, who met with Christina Nicassio a week ago and again on Thursday, described her as alarmingly despondent and at risk of harming herself. The psychiatrist said that at both meetings, the defendant was unable to hold a conversation and spoke so softly and slowly that she was often incomprehensible.
Donning a sleeveless anti-suicide smock, Christina Nicassio appeared at the hearing via video conference, with her long, wavy brown hair pulled to one side as she stared blankly into the screen.
A fresh scar protruded from her scalp — the result of reportedly ramming herself headfirst into a jail cell wall several times shortly after her arrest, requiring four stitches.
She didn’t speak or show emotion during the mental health commitment hearing, which lasted about 10 minutes.
During three meetings with her lawyer, Patrick Thomassey, she came off as extremely “lethargic” and had difficulty understanding and responding to even basic questions, Thomassey said.
In court Monday, Christina Nicassio’s eyes darted downward as prosecutors briefly recounted the events that led to her arrest.
Her parents — worried she needed medical intervention after separating from her fiancé and beginning to speak nonsensically — were trying to restrain their daughter and get her into a vehicle to check into a hospital for treatment, but she did not want to go , a criminal complaint said.
When officers arrived, she reportedly told police that she stabbed her father twice with a kitchen knife, stating that he “had to die” and that she “felt the world was ending,” the complaint said. She also referenced getting “played by Hollywood” and the movie, “The Mummy Returns.”
“In a movie, someone who can’t love someone else, they stab their father,” police quoted her as saying.
Thomassey said he and family members believe Christina Nicassio had been struggling with untreated mental health issues for years.
“We have found some things that indicate this goes back quite a ways,” said Thomassey, declining to elaborate on the findings.
Before her arrest, she had not been prescribed drugs for treatment, Thomassey said.
While in custody, she was prescribed three medications that treat depression, anxiety and sleep problems, Martone said.
On the advice of Thomassey, no family members were present at Monday’s hearing, but the defense attorney said they remain supportive.
The incident seems all the more senseless and unfathomable because the defendant and her dad “were as close as a father and daughter can be,” Thomassey said outside the courtroom.
“There was no reason for this other than the psychiatric problems she was experiencing at the time,” continued Thomassey. “(The late) Dr. Nicassio’s wife is a witness, her husband is deceased and her daughter is in jail looking at a life sentence. It’s so tragic.”
Judge Manning noted that Christina Nicassio’s 90-day stay at the state hospital may be extended if necessary.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or on Twitter @NewsNatasha.