Doctor Tells Jury DeHoyos May Have Brain Damage


Richard Lucio DeHoyos, the man charged with abducting and killing a 9-year-old Santa Ana schoolgirl, may have suffered brain damage that left him with an “abnormal” tendency toward “impulsivity and violence,” a UC Irvine researcher testified Wednesday.

Dr. Monte S. Buchsbaum, director of the UCI Brain Imaging Center, told jurors that a brain scan indicated that DeHoyos may have suffered blunt-force trauma injuries to the right frontal lobe of his brain. This damage could have resulted in “loss of inhibition and release of certain behaviors . . . including sexual activity.”

DeHoyos, 34, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in connection with the March 20, 1989, sexual assault and slaying of Nadia Puente. Her body was found in a trash can in Griffith Park in Los Angeles.


DeHoyos, who is charged with murder, kidnaping, rape and child molestation, faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

Buchsbaum said that a diagnostic procedure known as a positron emission tomography (PET) scan was administered to DeHoyos June 5 at UCI and took about 90 minutes. The scan monitors brain activity, transforming numerical data into color images of half-inch sections of the brain. It costs the institute $4,000 to administer, Buchsbaum said, but patients are normally charged $2,500, which in DeHoyos’ case was paid by the state.

Buchsbaum, a professor of psychiatry who also testified at the Randy Kraft serial murder trial, said other behaviors associated with brain injuries like DeHoyos’ include rages and sudden mood swings.

Under cross-examination by Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert C. Gannon Jr., Buchsbaum acknowledged that, while the possibility that the brain injury occurred after the Puente slaying was remote, there is no way to determine when it took place.

Prompted by a note from a juror who said she was confused by defense attorney Milton C. Grimes’ references to mental illness in his opening remarks earlier this week, Superior Court Judge Everett W. Dickey reminded the jurors that while DeHoyos’ mental condition at the time of the slaying was relevant to his degree of guilt, the issue of his sanity would not be considered until after the guilt phase of the trial.

A defendant “may be mentally ill but not legally insane,” the judge said.

Later in the day, Dr. Jose J. La Calle, a court-appointed forensic psychologist who has spent more than 90 hours interviewing DeHoyos, began outlining DeHoyos’ stormy family life, including raging battles with his mother. La Calle began recounting a series of head injuries suffered by DeHoyos. His testimony will continue next week.

After leaving the witness stand, La Calle revealed that DeHoyos had nine wives and 10 children, with a number of these families scattered around Central America.