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Gallaudet Murder Defendant Testifies

May 14, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Violent images in his mind forced him to kill, a former Gallaudet University student testified Tuesday in his trial on charges of murdering two classmates.

Jose Mesa Jr., 22, is charged with beating to death Eric Plunkett in September 2000 and stabbing Ben Varner to death five months later in their dorm rooms. All three were freshmen at Gallaudet, the nation’s premier university for the deaf.

Mesa said he is visited regularly by a pair of violent ``black hands,″ which commit crimes in his head and won’t leave him alone until he follows exactly what they do.

He said the first time they came to him he was an adolescent and the images were of the hands strangling a cat. He killed a cat and then several kittens to make the images go away.

Mesa testified that he was friends with both young men he’s charged with killing.

``I couldn’t control myself,″ he said through an interpreter. ``It’s the black hands. I tried to stop those black hands but I couldn’t. I felt like they were more powerful than I am.″

When Mesa was arrested over a year ago, he told police that he killed Plunkett and Varner to steal from them. Now, he says that was a misunderstanding. He said he cashed a check he stole from Varner because he wanted to give a clue to police that would help them catch him and stop him from killing again.

During cross examination, prosecutor Jeb Boasberg ridiculed that claim, asking why he threw out the knife he used to kill Varner and the clothes he was wearing.

Mesa said he never told anyone about the images because he was embarrassed and didn’t want people thinking he was crazy.

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