‘Hannibal Lecter’ testimony heard in Westmoreland County court case
A Westmoreland County jury will have to determine whether a copied photograph of fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter constituted a threat against a judge or was just a harmless example of a man’s frustration with his criminal conviction and three-year prison sentence.
Gregg Tchirkow, 39, of Monessen contends the latter and, on Wednesday, he repeatedly apologized and argued that he meant no ill will by sending Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio the photograph last year.
“I apologize if it made you uncomfortable. I felt I was getting nowhere with my appeal and I acted out,” Tchirkow said during his questioning of the judge.
Tchirkow, who is acting as his own lawyer, is on trial on charges of making terroristic threats and stalking. Prosecutors contend he mailed 24 letters and court motions to the judge over nearly two years, including the last correspondence with the picture of actor Anthony Hopkins portraying the character from the movie “Silence of the Lambs.”
Tchirkow was in prison when the letters were sent, serving an 18-to-36-month sentence imposed by Bilik-DeFazio in 2015 after he pleaded guilty to charges that he grew marijuana in his home. He remained in jail for another year after refusing to sign paperwork to begin a one-year probation sentence also ordered by Bilik-DeFazio.
The correspondence involved letters and hand-written court motions challenging his conviction. Several included passages that referenced the 1980s television show “Miami Vice,” his desire for Krispy Kreme donuts and one contained a picture of a chimpanzee wearing goggles. Several of the motions included a small picture of Tchirkow, the judge said.
His final letter to the judge included three pages, the first with just the word “metamorphosis,” and a second titled “preprison” over a picture of two people on a boat and with the caption “S.S. Oblivious.” The third page titled “post prison” featured the Hannibal Lecter picture with two paragraphs of hand-written text pertaining to the legalization of marijuana and fava beans, an apparent reference to one the character’s lines from the movie.
Bilik-DeFazio said she believed the picture was a threat.
“I was a little disturbed. My expectation was that he would be released (from jail). He wrote about how he changed. I was afraid,” Bilik-DeFazio testified.
Under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Allen Powanda, Tchirkow said he was diagnosed about two decades ago with bipolar disorder, was involuntarily committed to a mental institution three times and was prescribed medication for his illness. He is not currently taking any medication, he testified.
“There was no intent to threaten. I just wanted her to know what I was going through,” Tchirkow testified.
Senior Common Pleas Judge Timothy Creany of Cambria County, who is presiding over the trial, said closing arguments in the case will begin Friday morning, after which the jury will begin deliberations.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293 or [email protected]