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Nichols defense will be post-traumatic stress disorder

Stomped on wife after hitting her with car

Published: Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:16 p.m. CDT

JOLIET – A Crest Hill man will claim he was insane when he is tried on charges he murdered his wife last year.

Defense attorney Michael Ettinger told Judge Robert Livas on Thursday that while the evidence will show Jerry Nichols struck his wife Diane with a car, Nichols then began “stomping on her head” because the vehicle accident triggered his post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He doesn’t remember the incident. We’re not denying it happened,” Ettinger said. “The doctor will testify the high stress when the car hit his wife into a wall ... precipitated the post-traumatic stress disorder [leading to] the stomping.”

Ettinger said Nichols, 63, a Vietnam veteran, had no other PTSD symptoms around the time of his wife’s death on Jan. 26, 2013.

About 11 a.m. that day, Jerry Nichols called an ambulance to the house where he and Diane, 57, lived in the 16000 block of Arborvitae Circle. Paramedics arrived to see Nichols allegedly stomping on his wife’s head. An autopsy showed Diane Nichols died from “multiple injuries due to blunt trauma,” according to the Will County Coroner.

Crest Hill police had no previous contact with the Nichols, who had been married for 12 years. Diane’s death occurred two months after Jerry Nichols retired from LaGrange’s water and public works departments after 37 years.

Thursday’s hearing was held because prosecutors want Livas to bar Ettinger from using part of a report from psychologist Orest Wasyliw.

Assistant Will County State’s Attorney John Connor said five opinions offered by Dr. Wasyliw in his 53-page report are speculative or improperly linked without explanation.

Livas struck out Wasyliw’s conclusions that Nichols is an anti-social personality and may have relied on false memories when he was questioned by police. The judge said he will take a week to review the report and case law before addressing the PTSD conclusions.

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