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Giving Evil the Eye

Forensic pyschiatrist Michael Welner with his Depravity Scale, which he believes would help juries label as either sadistic or sick the actions of criminals.
Forensic pyschiatrist Michael Welner with his Depravity Scale, which he believes would help juries label as either sadistic or sick the actions of criminals. (Helayne Seidman - For The Washington Post)

He hired two men to kill her, but not quickly with a gun. He told them he wanted Sipe's "throat cut." He drove the pair from his home in Pennsylvania to a Wal-Mart near Sipe's apartment in Harrisonburg. They bought a fillet knife for the job. Teleguz drove them to her apartment, then went back to Pennsylvania to establish an alibi. The men went to the door, asked to use the phone, then attacked.

The fatal wound: "a cut approximately two and one-half inches deep into Sipe's trachea, larynx, and a major artery on the right side of Sipe's neck." It caused the young mother to "drown in her own blood," according to the trial record.

Only then did the killers hear the bath water running. They discovered the 2-year-old in the tub. They were considerate enough to turn the water off. They left the child with his nearly decapitated mother. Mother and child were not discovered for two days.

Teleguz paid the men $2,000 and kicked in another $500 for expenses.

Two years passed. The killers were eventually identified by blood left at the scene. They gave up Teleguz to police. (The man wielding the knife got life in prison. The accomplice got 15 years.)

Prosecutors, however, wanted the death penalty for Teleguz.

To do that, they needed to demonstrate his "depravity of mind" and that the crime was "outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman," according to the Virginia statute.

Here's the legal definition for "depravity of mind": "A degree of moral turpitude and psychical detachment surpassing that inherent in the definition of ordinary legal malice and premeditation." Webster's definition of vile: "morally base or evil; wicked; depraved; sinful."

In other words, was Teleguz your typical murder-for-hire customer, or was he really sadistic and depraved?

The jury found him to be depraved and sentenced him to death -- delivering a punishment harsher than the man who actually stabbed Sipe. The state Supreme Court took it up for review.

Do you think Teleguz was depraved to the point of evil? You do know what evil is, right? That's funny, because nobody else has figured out exactly how to define it. Of course, that hasn't stopped Welner from trying.

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