FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The mother of Wayne Treacy, who is accused of nearly beating to death a teenage girl who made comments about his brother, who killed himself, testified Wednesday about finding Treacy's brother dead.
When testimony in the trial resumed Wednesday afternoon, Broward Sheriff's Office computer technician Jeannie Burnette testified that someone using the username "Wayne" on the Treacy family's computer Googled "how to kill someone" the night before the attack that left Josie Lou Ratley, then 15, with permanent brain damage, Local 10's Todd Tongen reported from the courthouse.
"There was a search for how to kill someone," Burnette said.
Treacy and Ratley did not know each other the night before the attack, and it was not until the next day that they had a heated text exchange, which prosecutors claim prompted the attack.
Burnette testified that someone went to Google Maps on Treacy's computer and looked up Deerfield Beach Middle School one minute after the text messages.
"The person who was using the Wayne account went to Google and to the map area of it and did a search for Deerfield Beach Middle School," she said.
Treacy is charged with attempted murder in the March 2010 beating outside the school that nearly killed Ratley, then 15. Prosecutors contend that Treacy targeted Ratley because of some text messages mentioning his brother's suicide, while the defense claims Treacy was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder at the time.
The prosecution rested its case Wednesday afternoon after reading 18 minutes of text messages in sequential order. The messages were between Treacy, Ratley and some of their friends.
"How are you going to kill her?" one of the messages said.
The prosecutor said Treacy replied, "Snap her neck and stomp her skull, fastest way I could think of."
When the defense began its case, it called Donna Powers, Treacy's mother, to the stand. She spoke about Oct. 10, 2009, when she and Treacy were on their way to the beach to celebrate his 15th birthday. She said they spotted Treacy's brother's car outside a church with police officers surrounding it.
"I got out of the car and I went to go to the officer, and I realized Michael was hanging in the tree," Powers said. "I fell into Wayne's arms, and I was screaming, and I don't know. At one point, I went to call my husband to tell him what I found and Wayne was yelling, 'Cut my brother down. Cut my brother down.'"
Dr. Phil Heller, a clinical psychologist for the defense, testified the episode gave Treacy post-traumatic stress disorder.
"You cannot control your emotions. Sometimes, the anxiety and the tension just comes from a deeper source inside of you. It just comes up," Heller said.
Supporter: Treacy on suicide watch
According to a Facebook post by a member of the Wayne Treacy Support Group, Treacy, who broke down in tears several times during Tuesday's testimony, was put on suicide watch.
"Tonight we went to the jail to visit Wayne and we were unable to visit," wrote group member Sandy Baker Manon. "They informed us that they have concerns about him hurting himself and he is currently in the infirmary on suicide watch. I'm not sure how this will affect trial tomorrow. Please keep Wayne and his family in your prayers."
Treacy was visibly upset in the courtroom Tuesday after apparently inadvertently seeing pictures from his brother's suicide that the defense team was trying to get put into evidence. An orange extension cord was near Treacy, and his brother had used a similar cord to hang himself.
Tuesday's testimony contained several graphic accounts of the beating, during which witnesses said Treacy slammed Ratley's head on the concrete and stomped on her head with steel-toed boots.
"I saw him punch her, punch her, like, a good three times, three or five times," one student testified.
Walter Welch, a social studies teacher who helps with bus traffic and stopped the attack, also testified. Welch, who likely saved Ratley's life, said he spotted Treacy moving through the crowd and then kicking Ratley.
"I see the kid kick the girl like a ball in the upper torso. So, I see this, and I scream, 'Stop,'" Welch said. "I see two, possibly three kicks. Now, I got close to him, and he had his leg cocked, as he was ready to kick her again, and I left my feet and I hit him in the upper torso and I hit him pretty hard and knocked him backwards."
As Treacy was being hauled to the principal's office to wait for the police, Welch recalled the reason Treacy gave for the beating.
"So about halfway down, you want it straight? I had him by the arm. He's got his head down. I looked at him. I said, 'What the (expletive) were you thinking about?' And he responded with his head down, 'She talked about my dead brother,'" Welch said.
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