Defense: Man who raped, killed shouldn't get death penalty because he suffered child abuse

April 8, 2008 

Timothy Wick endured physical and emotional abuse as a child that helped shape the man who confessed to raping and murdering 78-year-old Jeanne Welden.

But if spared the death penalty, he still could be a positive influence on his two children, Wick's aunt and various experts testified Monday.

Wick pleaded guilty last week to the rape and murder of Welden in her Beaufort home in May 2006. Solicitor Duffie Stone is seeking the death penalty. The sentencing hearing will go into its fourth day today with Judge Perry Buckner to decide whether Wick will receive at least 30 years in prison or a death sentence.

Wick's mother drank heavily while pregnant and continued to drinkduring his childhood, according to testimony from Wick's aunt, Norma Sims, and other witnesses.

"She wasn't a mother," said Sims, whose sister is Wick's mother. "She'd blow marijuana in (Wick's) face (when he was 3) and thinks it's cute ... and leaves (Wick and his siblings) alone at home, with no baby sitter and no food, to go drinking."

She added that Wick's mother frequently told employers that Timothy Wick had died, so she could leave work to go drinking.

His father denied he was his son and abandoned the family before Timothy Wick was 2, Sims said.

Marti Loring, a social worker at the Center for Mental Health and Human Development in Atlanta who said she's completed six interviews with Wick, said the rejection Wick felt from his father was reinforced by his mother, who had been told by doctors that she was unable to have more children before she became pregnant with Timothy Wick.

"You're the reject," Wick's mother told him, according to Loring. "You're the child I was never supposed to have. I got you out of the trash can."

With Wick's father gone and his mother neglecting him, Wick's care fell to his siblings, including his older brother, David, who taught him to steal at age 7 and subjected him to "unholy terrorizing," Loring said.

"The brother's position was, 'Either you commit crimes or I'll beat you up,'" she said.

She added that the family moved frequently to escape the mother's boyfriends, whom she had stolen from. Her boyfriends also sexually assaulted Wick's sisters, Loring said, prompting them to leave the family at early ages.

Violence was common during Wick's childhood, she added, saying Wick witnessed his mother stab a man and be stabbed by a man.

Loring noted that family members gave Wick alcohol at age 10 and marijuana at 14; he also huffed gasoline and did methamphetamine by the time he was 18.

Wick told Loring the best time of his life was a six-month period while he was 10, after his mother remarried. That period, however, came to an end when Wick's stepfather died in a logging accident.

After that, Wick's life descended in a "downward spiral," Loring said, with his happiest days spent in a juvenile detention center, where he was given food, structure and praise for doing good things. Loring added that Wick attempted suicide when he was 15.

She also used a chart Wick's family to demonstrate the "quite remarkable" amount of alcoholism and abuse in Wick's family.

During cross-examination, Stone mentioned Wick's sister, who lives in Alaska and holds a college degree in business.

"Is Wendy Wick or anybody else on that chart a murderer or a rapist or a sodomizer?" Stone asked.

When Loring responded that Wick's sister had not experienced the same traumas as Timothy Wick, Stone reminded her that Wick's sisters had their own traumas.

"No, she was raped as a child, wasn't she? And Timothy Wick wasn't. Yet Wendy Wick seems to have bounced back pretty well," he said, raising his voice during the most heated exchange of the sentencing hearing thus far.

Loring added that Wick's sister had more exposure to love and had not been rejected like Timothy Wick.

In 1999, Wick's future wife, Christina Wick, became pregnant with twin boys, but one was stillborn and the other died after five hours because of heart problems. Christina Wick testified Monday that Timothy Wick increased his drinking and began doing powder cocaine after their twins died.

The next year, Christina Wick again became pregnant and gave birth to a healthy girl. In January 2002, the couple split.

"He was into coke really bad and drinking, and I was tired of fighting with him and I had to protect her (from the drugs)," she said.

That pattern would repeat itself in 2006, after Wick's second daughter was born, this time to girlfriend Dana Willingham.

"He was having problems with Dana because Tim was using crack and seemed very sad and depressed, and she couldn't tolerate it anymore and told him to leave," Loring testified.

Dr. Donna Schwartz-Watts, a forensic psychiatrist and professor in the University of South Carolina department of neuropsychiatry, testified that Wick's dependence on crack, as well as an "amalgam" of other factors probably contributed to his criminal actions.

During cross-examination, Stone revealed that Welden's diary showed she gave Wick money many times, but Willingham asked Welden to stop giving him money the day before her murder.

"Instead of being addicted to crack, is it possible (Welden) told (Wick) she wouldn't give him any more money and he became mad?" Stone asked.

Schwartz-Watts agreed that was a possibility, though Wick told authorities he was high on crack when he killed Welden.

She added that neuropsychiatric testing showed Wick had no brain abnormalities, although she did diagnose anxiety disorder, sexual disorder and antisocial personality disorder.

Since being arrested for Welden's murder, Wick has kept up regular phone and mail communications with his oldest daughter, Christina Wick said. She has not brought Wick's daughter to visit him in jail, she said, but she wants Wick to continue to be part of their daughter's life.

Psychologist William Kissiah said Wick has shown he wants relationships with his daughters, and Kissiah said he believes Wick still could have a positive effect on their lives.

"His situation as a child has given him the determination to step up and be a good father to his children and be a good influence, particularly because his influence thus far has not been what he wanted it to be" he said. "He was not a good parent when he was on drugs, but he's not on drugs while he's in prison, so he may have an opportunity to be a better parent."

Wick's attorneys will call their final witnesses today, and both sides will present closing arguments. Buckner is not

expected to decide Wick's sentence today.

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