A schizophrenic man who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for shooting and killing a volunteer at an Anchorage psychiatric care facility has been sentenced to 60 years in prison, with no time suspended.
Michael McEvoy, 23, thought he was "killing a dragon" when he fired shots at Mozelle Nalan, 19, at the Soteria House in June 2011, according to his public defender at the Friday sentencing hearing. Nalan was volunteering at the nonprofit residential facility when she was killed.
McEvoy had been committed to mental institutions in New Jersey in the past, and while it was illegal for him to possess a firearm, the shop that sold him the gun, the Ammo Can, did not break the law because his past commitments did not show up in a background check, prosecutor Daniel Shorey said. The gun shop did nothing wrong, as they were not aware of his mental health issues, and cooperated fully with the investigation, Shorey said.
"There's something fundamentally wrong when we allow a severely mentally ill person to legally buy firearms," Shorey said. "These things should be reported. It's up to each individual state to report them."
McEvoy bought the .45-caliber handgun on his birthday, May 27, 2011, and shot Nalan five times on June 30, firing first from behind her back. She remained in a coma until July 17, said her mother, who had to make the difficult decision to remove Nalan from life support.
"Whatever he did to her body, he could not touch her soul," said Natasha Nalan, the mother, speaking to Judge Philip Volland by phone from out of state. "Michael, I would like to say I don't hate you, but that's not true."
The sobbing mother of three still-living children said she had been looking at albums of photos of her blond-haired, blue-eyed daughter, now dead.
"There's no more pictures, your honor. There should be pictures of her graduating, pictures of her getting married and having a baby," Natasha Nalan said. "There should be pictures, because there should be a life, your honor."
McEvoy's lawyer, Dan Lowery, said his client was suffering from delusions when he killed Nalan. She was on the phone with her boyfriend when it happened, and the boyfriend told police he could hear McEvoy talking about how he had to kill "the dragon," Lowery said.
"In Mr. McEvoy's mind, it seems clear he wasn't interacting with a human," Lowery said.
When police arrested McEvoy and held him in an interrogation room, he ranted for hours about things that made no sense, Lowery said. And in earlier court proceedings, McEvoy had been disruptive, the public defender said. On Friday, McEvoy remained calm, his head down as he listened to others speak. Lowery said that was because McEvoy was finally getting the medication he needed.
When it was McEvoy's turn to speak, he stood to address Judge Philip Volland and the courtroom, which was empty except for lawyers, reporters and photographers.
McEvoy called Nalan a dear friend and said he would miss her. He apologized to Nalan, her family and anybody he had scared and said he would remember the things her family had said.
His father had tried to talk him into pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, McEvoy said.
"I think it's hiding behind mental illness when you don't man up and plead guilty," he said.
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4343.