Terry Joe Sedlacek Indicted for Pastor's Murder, Reports Indicate Mentally Ill: Could the Tragedy Have Been Avoided?
Terry Joe Sedlacek, 27, has been charged with first degree murder for the fatal shooting of pastor Fred Winters of Maryville, Illinois during services this past Sunday. He has also been charged with aggravated assault involving the altercation and alleged stabbings of parishioners that occurred after the shooting.
Sedlacek himself was seriously injured in the incident and remains hospitalized, and his motive (if any) remains unclear. However, CBS reported today that Sedlacek may have been suffering from mental illness stemming from Lyme disease.
What was, at the time, an informational health piece by the St. Louis Dispatch in August of 2008 now gives some background and insight into the sad story of Terry Sedlacek, who led a normal life until he was apparently bitten by a tick in 1998 or 1999. The story related how, from that point on, things deteriorated badly for Sedlacek who became confused and was treated for drugs for mental illness, until he was actually accurately diagnosed with the tick-borne diseases of ehrlichiosis and Lyme disease.
The piece described Sedlacek's condition at that time of writing (Aug. 2009):
"These days, Sedlacek, now 26 and living in Troy, Ill., with Abernathy, has difficulty speaking. He's got lesions on his brain. He's taking several drugs, including anti-seizure medication."
Sedlacek was also undergoing further treatment then to try and help him recover, but regardless, it's not clear at this stage whether the disease even contributed to this incident. FOX News reported on the possibility that Lyme disease could trigger psychosis, stating:
"'Chronic Lyme disease can be associated with seizures, depression, anxiety and even psychosis has been reported,' said Dr. Marc Siegel, an internist and FOX News Channel contributor.
'It's possible, but the problem is, something being reported doesn't always mean it's the cause. For example, someone may have psychosis or seizures -- but Lyme disease may not be the cause -- so you have to be really careful.'"
If psychosis were suspected, it's possible that Sedlacek's family could have had him committed for treatment of the mental illness, but the news stories do not appear to indicate that was the case, as Sedlacek was being treated for his illness.
Aside from such drastic legal measures to avoid what was, perhaps in all likelihood, an unforeseeable incident, it might be that the best chance of avoiding the tragic results of a simple tick bite might be via early detection and treatment of the disease. Karen Yates, an official with the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services told the St. Louis Dispatch:
The "vast majority" of people who contract Lyme disease get a bull's-eye rash around the bite, Yates said. If caught at that stage, Lyme disease can usually be treated successfully with a round of antibiotics.
Sadly, as Sedlacek's mother Ruth Abernathy said back in August, "'[w]e went through it for nine years,' she said, 'and it can be cured in 30 days.'" Below are some informational links on the story, as well as Lyme disease prevention and treatment.
- CNN: Suspect charged in pastor's shooting death
- Murder Charges (Illinois v. Sedlacek) (FindLaw)
- CBS News: Preacher Slay Suspect Was Mentally Ill
- FOX News: Can Lyme Disease Lead to Insanity, Violent Tendencies?
- St. Louis Dispatch: Lyme disease diagnosis can be difficult
- Classifaction of Crimes: Criminal Law FAQ (provided by Jacobs, Grudberg, Belt, Dow & Katz P.C.)
- Lyme Disease Information (National Center for Infectious Diseases)
- Lyme Disease Prevention (CDC)