Patient Admits Killing Psychiatrist, Police Say
Tuesday, September 5, 2006
A 19-year-old North Potomac man told detectives that he killed a psychiatrist with his fists during a hastily arranged appointment Sunday in which they discussed the man's treatment for schizophrenia, according to Montgomery County police.
Police charged the patient, Vitali A. Davydov, with first-degree murder yesterday in the killing of Wayne S. Fenton, 53, a prominent psychiatrist who served as associate director of the National Institute of Mental Health. He maintained a private practice in Bethesda, treating severely mentally ill patients mostly on weekday evenings and weekends.
Near Fenton's house yesterday on Parkedge Drive in Rockville, small groups of neighbors gathered and remembered their friend. "This is a tremendous loss for his family and his colleagues and his patients," said Roger Rothman, who lives next door.
He said neighbors liked walking by Fenton's house and listening to him sing as he played old-time Southern blues on his guitar. He played songs from the greats, like Robert Johnson. "He was very good," Rothman said.
Tim Moran, Fenton's brother-in-law, said Fenton was trying to help out another doctor in treating Davydov. "This young man was not a regular patient of his," Moran said. "He was having an episode of some sort."
Fenton developed research programs at NIMH that were designed to help schizophrenics deal with day-to-day life.
William T. Carpenter, a colleague of Fenton's who knew him for two decades, said Fenton worked to make changes at Chestnut Lodge, a now-closed psychiatric hospital in Rockville, when he was a director there.
"His studies clarified the unmeet needs for schizophrenia," said Carpenter, director of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. "His leadership at the lodge helped transform that institution into a modern, therapeutic facility."
A woman who answered the door at Davydov's home in the Dufief Mill Estates development in North Potomac said the family would not comment. "We're just in shock, and we don't know how it happened," she said.
Barry H. Helfand, a lawyer who represents Davydov, said his client is "a very, very sick young man who suffers from really serious mental illnesses." Helfand represented Davydov after a 2005 arrest for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Prosecutors dropped that case in June after Helfand told them a psychiatrist had concluded that Davydov was "incapable of coming to court."
Davydov is a 2005 graduate of Wootton High School in Rockville, where he and his twin brother tried out for junior varsity ice hockey. "They played the game a little rough, but nothing out of the ordinary," said David Evans, the varsity head coach. "They were hard-nosed kids."
Vitali Davydov saw Fenton on Saturday and had an appointment scheduled for the following week, according to a charging document prepared by Montgomery County Detective Patrick J. McNerney. The document says that after the reading of his rights, Davydov "elected to make a statement of admission to the crime."
"Davydov told his father . . . that he needed to speak with Dr. Fenton [Sunday] about his continuing to take medications for his schizophrenia/bi-polar disorder," McNerney wrote. "According to the suspect's father, discussions with the suspect about his need to take his medications caused an angry reaction from the suspect."
Fenton agreed to see Davydov at 4 p.m. at his office on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda. Davydov's father, Joseph, spoke with Fenton when the father and son arrived at the psychiatrist's office.
Fenton told the father "that he was going to encourage Davydov that it was important to take his medication," McNerney wrote. "Additionally, he said that if given the chance he would suggest that Davydov accept an injection of the medication rather than take it orally."
It was not clear what medication Davydov was being prescribed or whether he stopped taking it. "During this meeting, Davydov became agitated and beat Dr. Fenton with his fists," McNerney wrote. "When he left the office Dr. Fenton was on the ground bleeding from the face."
When Joseph Davydov returned to the doctor's office to pick up his son, he found him outside the building. The father called 911 after noticing blood on his son's hands, pants and shirt, police said.
Paramedics found Fenton lying unresponsive inside a rear office in the private practice medical building. He was declared dead at the scene.
Vitali Davydov's work number, which is in his charging documents, corresponds to American Pool Enterprises Inc., an Owings Mills, Md.-based company that trains lifeguards who are stationed at thousands of pools across the country.
A man who answered the phone at the company yesterday said Davydov has been employed there for about two years. Officials at the company declined to comment further.
The Davydov twins last year sought restraining orders against two brothers after a fight in Gaithersburg, according to Freddy Garcia, who went to school with the twins and was one of the men involved in the fight.
Garcia, 19, of Gaithersburg, said he was not surprised to hear of the arrest of Vitali Davydov, a former friend with whom he had a falling out after the fight. Garcia said Davydov had a volatile temper that worsened during his last couple of years in high school.
"It's sad," Garcia said yesterday during an interview at his home. "He was doing so good. He was a bright kid. He was going to college."
Staff writer Dana Hedgpeth and researcher Karl Evanzz contributed to this report.