Update: Doctor outlines Lonnie Jacob Ragan's mental illness

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 6, 2014 

Lonnie Jacob Ragan’s defense team offered one witness — a psychologist from West Central Georgia Regional Hospital — to testify during his trial in the 2011 shotgun slaying of his sister-in-law, Holly Hearn.

Ragan is facing 14 counts in connection with Hearns’ death and the possibility of life in prison if he is convicted by the six-man, six-woman Muscogee County Superior Court jury.

Dr. Catherine Boyer, the only person to testify in Ragan’s defense, told the court Thursday that Ragan suffered from a variety of mental illnesses.

She read to the jury a summary of Ragan’s condition from a criminal responsibility report.

“Previously given diagnoses are unchanged, specifically Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder,” she read. “Mr. Ragan does not presently exhibit psychotic symptoms or significant manic or depressive symptoms.”

Boyer testified Ragan has suffered from the conditions since childhood. She also said the stress of the murder trial has added to his issues.

“Mr. Ragan experiences significant distress relating to legal circumstances and the stress of incarceration and separation from significant others,” according to the report.

Defense attorney Bill Mason moved for a mistrial during Boyer’s testimony when Boyer was asked by the prosecution about Ragan requesting an attorney after his arrest.

Judge Gil McBride denied the motion.

Mason and Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Cooley will likely give closing arguments when the jury returns at 9 a.m. today. Both sides will be given two hours to wrap up the case, which began on Monday with jury selection. There have been three full days of testimony, most of it presented by the state.

When the case reaches the jury, they will consider charges ranging from murder to the unlawful handling of an improvised explosive device. The defense has already told the jury Ragan is guilty of one of the charges — possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The defense has never denied that Ragan shot Hearn and her husband, Ryan Hearn, on Aug. 26, 2011, at 5912 Billings Court in north Columbus.

Ryan Hearn testified as one of the state’s last witnesses, recounting a threatening 2009 phone message that Ragan left more than two years before the shooting. Before Ryan Hearn took the stand, McBride cautioned the jury to only consider the testimony in that incident.

“He said he was going to bring blood to the family, starting with the kids,” Ryan Hearn testified.

Much of Thursday’s early testimony centered on an IED witnesses have testified Ragan was wearing at the time of the fatal shooting.

An agent from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives testified that there were three devices capable of injuring or killing someone and causing significant property damage. The devices, which were found by police in Harris County at a home belonging to a friend of Ragan’s, were inspected at ATF labs in Atlanta and Fort Worth, Texas.

Columbus investigators seized what they believed to be Ragan’s bomb-making materials, including BBs, .410-gauge shotgun shells, two filters, two pill bottles and 26 .32-caliber bullets, according to previous testimony.

The capability of the IED was analyzed by ATF explosive enforcement officer Johnnie Green, one of 26 agents in the nation qualified to do what he does.

Green said the BBs and bullets in the device would have caused most of the damage. It is different from a single bullet because it would have a set trajectory, Green testified.

“The bullets would have gone in all directions,” Green told the jury.

Cooley also asked Green about the BBs that were inside the small pill bottles.

“My experience is you would not add metal for any other reason than to cause harm,” Green said.

Green said the device had a “cannon fuse” that would have taken about 10 seconds to ignite the device.

Mason did not cross-examine Green.

The defense has contended throughout the trial that the bombs, found outside the county, were never brought to Columbus. The prosecution has repeatedly tried to show that parts of the bombs were in the tool harness, one commonly worn by workers who climb as part of their jobs.

The Thursday bomb testimony was not limited to federal experts. Columbus police officers also testified about their dealings with the device after it was seized by detectives and brought into the Public Safety Building downtown.

When Lt. Bill Rawn was told the device was in the building, he immediately evacuated the area and contacted the Columbus Hazardous Devices Response Team, a multi-agency bomb squad.

“The policy is we don’t bring explosives in building,” Rawn told the jury.

Columbus Police Sgt. John Crump, a bomb technician who also works in the Burglary and Theft Division, was called in to examine the device.

Crump was the one who took the device outside and made sure it was not activated.

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