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Mental health of murder suspect being questioned

January 18, 2011

Andrew Wesley Downs, 20, appears in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Wednesday, Jan. 5 facing charges in the murder of local residents Beverly Reilly and sister Kathy Yeager who were vacationing at Santa Margarita Ranch. Attorney Matthew Guerrero is at right. Photo courtesy of Jayson Mellom/ San Luis Obispo Tribune

Some light is being shed on the dark incidents of Christmas Day when two local women were shot to death while visiting in San Luis Obispo County.
Owens Valley residents and sisters Beverly Reilly and Kathy Yeager were murdered Dec. 25 while visiting relatives for the holidays at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch.
Initial reports on the crime did not describe a motive, as there did not appear to be one. Now, the finger is being pointed at an apparent lack of medication that prompted the senseless acts of violence. The suspected murderer, 20-year-old Andrew Wesley Downs, suffered from schizophrenia and had been without medication prior to the killings.
Authorities have said Downs’ past history of not taking his medication would lead him to act rashly.
According to a report from the Atascadero Police Department, which responded to another attack by Downs that night, “Downs kept (telling police) that he wanted to go to a mental hospital and that he ran out of his medication.”
Probation reports on Downs reveal he had a long history of mental illness. It is also being reported that Downs would frequently stop taking his medication and had been reported missing for more than a month prior to the Christmas Day double-homicide.
Downs was on probation from a trespassing violation that took place February 2010. This incident, too, was blamed on Downs not taking his anti-schizophrenic medications regularly.
Downs’ father, Gary Downs, is quoted in the probation report as saying that Andrew was a straight-A student and a member of the honor band before being diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 15. The report goes on to state that Downs’ illness caused his “mind to race” with “intense thought.”
Downs’ father described his son as very gentle, noting that Andrew often carried a Bible with him and was always trying to help others.
Days before the February 2010 incident, Downs was reportedly hospitalized for severe anxiety, believing an earthquake was imminent and he fled in the family car.
It was also reported at that time that Andrew Downs was “cheeking” his medication, or holding it in his mouth then spitting it out later. The report said his symptoms were “blossoming” due to his refusal to take the medication.
The probation report concludes by saying that, despite the severity of Downs’ illness, he should be given a chance to seek outpatient treatment.
Downs was arraigned on Dec. 28 and he entered a plea of not guilty. Now his attorney, Matthew Guerrero, is asking the court to evaluate his client’s mental competency to stand trial.

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