Psychologist says Nichols' history might be connected to Moberly murder

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HUNTSVILLE – A forensic psychologist testified on behalf of Jeffrey Nichols Tuesday in the sentencing phase of his murder trial.  Dr. Mark Cunningham said Nichols’ background could have connections to his decision to take part in the murder of a Moberly woman in 2013.

Nichols was convicted last week of killing 92-year-old Carmelita Kaser. He faces the death penalty.

Cunningham said he interviewed Nichols and his family members and diagnosed Nichols with seven childhood onset psychological disorders. They all could have connections to the crime Nichols committed on Easter night in 2013, Cunningham said.

He said he diagnosed Nichols with ADHD, cyclic mood disorder, panic disorder, impulse control disorder, neurocognitive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and reactive attachment disorder. He said some of the disorders are common in criminals.

“In these offenders, it’s no surprise to have ADHD or brain dysfunctions,” Cunningham said.

He said such brain abnormalities lead to risk factors in relation to brain dysfunction and criminal violence.

He said Nichols was diagnosed with ADHD at just six years old. It wasn’t long after that he started treatment at Lakeland Regional Hospital, which provided the jury with 291 pages of records of Nichols’ visits.

Nichols was 22 at the time of the murder with an accomplice. Cunningham said the human brain isn’t fully developed until age 25.

“A 25-year-old has a fundamentally better brain,” Cunningham said. “This tragedy happened between two immature individuals.”

He said the homicide offending rate is twice as high for people 18-24 years old than those 25-34 years old.

Cunningham showed Nichols’ biological family tree to the jury, and said his family had a history of alcohol and drug abuse, sexual abuse and mood disorders. He also said both of Nichols’ maternal parents are no strangers to prison time.

A Randolph County Courthouse official told KOMU 8 the jury is expected to deliberate Nichols’ sentence Wednesday morning.