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McCoy Defense Begins; Mother Apologizes to Victim's Family

The defense in the jury trial of suspected "Highway Shooter" Charles McCoy went on offense today in an effort to spare their client a possible death sentence.

McCoy has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to a string of shootings on or near interstate highways in late 2003 and early 2004,including the fatal shooting of a Washington Courthouse woman on the city's south outerbelt.

Defense attorney Mark Collins used the same opening line as the prosecution as he addressed the jury. "Life is about choices" he said...and then he told the jury that defendant Charles McCoy lacked ability to make daily routine choices about what to wear or what route to drive to work. He told jurors McCoy was diagnosed with paranoid-schizophrenia in 1997.

Collins says in March of 1997 doctors determined McCoy was totally and permanently disabled,at age 23.

Collins outlined more of the defense case saying it will present evidence of the ongoing battle between the defendant and his parents to keep him medicated.

He told jurors that in June of 2001 McCoy's father gave him an ultimatum to either take medication or move out. Charles McCoy junior left and was gone for two days.

When he called back home his mother noticed a 606 area code on the caller ID from Eastern Kentucky. The family had earlier attended a McCoy-Hatfield reunion in the area.

Collins says evidence in the defense case will show that McCoy experienced hallucinations and at one time he believed "people could read his mind."

He began dropping items from overpasses in late 2002 and when symptoms of his paranoid-schizophrenia became more severe he bought a handgun. As its first witness, the defense recalled Ardith McCoy, Charles' mother.

She testified earlier for the prosecution. This time, she told the jury that her son's illness caused stress in the family and in November of 2002 she and Charles' father divorced.

Ardith McCoy and her adult son then moved to the far south side from Grove City. She worked two jobs while the defendant lived in the lower level of her Radbourne Road home and collected Social Security disability payments.

In August of 2003 she found a loaded Baretta nine milimeter in the house and had it removed for fear her son would commit suicide. Later she found shotguns and another disassembled nien milimeter gun in Charles bedroom. She said she met initial allegations that her son was the highway shooter with absolute disbelief. "He would never hurt anybody, she said."

Despite her disbelief that her son could be the Highway Shooter she later found out ballistics tests matched bullet fragments with the disassembled gun reomved from her son's bedroom.

She called it a tragedy for both her family and the family of Gail Knisley who was killed by a bullet fired from the gun. "I cannot express to them how sorry I am," she testified.On cross examination, Prosecutor Ron O'Brien questioned Ardith McCoy about her son's behavior on Thanksgiving of 2003, two days after the 62-year-old Knisley of Washington Courthouse suffered the fatal gunshot wound while riding in a car on the city's south outerbelt. Mrs. McCoy said her son did not say he was hearing voices.

O'Brien also asked about Charles McCoy's behavior on Valentine's Day of 2004. At 10:15 that morning, a bullet struck an eastbound Chevy Suburban in Licking County. The bullet fragment from that shooting was also matched to McCoy's gun. Again, Mrs. McCoy testified her son did not describe hearing voices.

The defense will continue its case on Friday.