Boy's antidepressant defense gets national scrutiny
The case of a Chester County teenager accused of killing his grandparents is gaining national attention, including a front page story Monday in The New York Times.
The Times ran a lengthy story detailing the case of Christopher Pittman, who police say shot and killed his grandparents in 2001 at age 12. The story looks at the alleged link between the boy's behavior and an antidepressant he was taking at the time of the killings.
The newspaper cited Pittman's case because it will be among the first to be tried amid a debate over the safety of antidepressant use among children.
Pittman is charged with killing his grandparents, Joe Frank Pittman and Joy Roberts Pittman, in November 2001. Each had been shot in the head while sleeping in their rural Chester County home, and their house was then set on fire. Pittman is being tried as an adult and could face up to life in prison if convicted.
FDA studies cited
Recent studies by the Food and Drug Administration back suggestions of a link between some antidepressants and suicidal tendencies among children, which has prompted the administration to prepare new warnings for the drugs.
Pittman had been on a five-week regimen of antidepressants, first Paxil then Zoloft, before killing his grandparents, authorities say. His family and supporters say his violent behavior was caused by an adverse reaction to the medication. In trying to prove that in court, his lawyers are seeking secret company documents and memos from Pfizer, the maker of Zoloft. The company is fighting the effort.
The Times' coverage of the case cited The Herald's own coverage, and included a photo taken by a Herald photographer, as well as a family photo of Pittman and his grandfather. The Times story also included details from Pittman's medical and psychiatric reports.
Though Pittman's attorneys argue he was under the influence of the drugs when he killed his grandparents, the Times story quoted a report by Dr. Pamela M. Crawford, a forensic psychiatrist who examined Pittman, that said Pittman knew what he was doing when he killed his grandparents.
The Times story said Pittman remembered everything about the night his grandparents were killed.
"Something kept telling me to do it," the newspaper quoted Pittman as telling a forensic psychiatrist.
Pittman's trial could begin in the fall.
Jason Foster • 329-4066