Thursday, March 22
HUDSON, N.Y. — William S. Demagall was sentenced yesterday to the maximum punishment — 25 years to life in prison — for the murder of a Hillsdale man in February 2006.

While acknowledging that the 23-year-old suffers from mental illness — an insanity defense was unsuccessful at the trial — Columbia County Judge Paul Czajka adopted the prosecutor's recommendation and the emotional courtroom requests of the victim's daughter and brother.

Defense attorney Richard Mott had sought the minimum prison term, 15 years to life, based on the former Stockbridge resident's history of debilitating mental illness: schizophrenia, delusional behavior and bipolar disorder. He has filed a notice of appeal.

Just 36 hours before the stabbing, bludgeoning and burning of 56-year-old George Mancini, Demagall had escaped from a locked psychiatric ward at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield.

Based on information from his cousin, John Hobart, that Mancini had drugs, Demagall sought out the victim at his apartment. Hobart drove Demagall to Mancini's house.

The judge said that since the Feb. 11, 2006, murder of Mancini, Demagall has had repeated opportunities to express regret.

But during interviews with police and psychiatrists, Demagall "has expressed little or no remorse for the brutal homicide that led to this indictment. ... Whether or not we agreed that he suffers from serious mental illness, no remorse at all.


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Instead, said the judge, Demagall's behavior following the murder reflected both his "intelligence and his manipulative nature."

During his evaluation by court-appointed psychiatrists, Demagall said God told him to kill Mancini.

As Czajka delivered his sentence, Demagall sat with his eyes fixed on the table before him. His hands and feet were shackled, and he wore orange jail clothing. Five burly court officers surrounded the diminutive man, who has been taking anti-psychotic drugs during his incarceration at the Columbia County Jail.

Demagall was convicted of second-degree murder last December, during a trial in which his mental illness was the focal point. Two psychiatrists testified that he could not be held responsible for his criminal behavior due to his delusional condition.

But a prosecution psychiatrist testified that while he was indeed mentally ill, Demagall knew his behavior was wrong. He cited actions Demagall took during and after the murder to conceal his crime, including the burning of the body.

Demagall remained facing forward as the victim's brother, Michael Mancini, was allowed to speak behind him.

Michael Mancini abandoned a three-page statement, and delivered a rageful outburst at Demagall's back, calling him a "cold-blooded killer who murdered my brother for drugs that weren't there, and I think you are just like any other scumbag murderer in New York state who murders people for drugs and money.

"You don't deserve any mercy at all," he said. "You showed my brother no mercy."

Demagall's younger sister, Laurel, fled weeping from the courtroom, where her parents and other family were gathered.

Behind them sat a contingent of representatives from the Berkshire chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, whose members have children with mental illness.

Michael Mancini said his brother was "my best friend for 53 years," a math teacher whose finer moments in life were "watching a kid finally 'get it.' "

George Mancini retired early from his job with a painful spinal disease, osteomyelitis, which required strong prescription painkillers, Oxycontin and Dilaudid, said his brother.

It was those drugs that Demagall's cousin, Hobart, wanted, when he took Demagall to the Hillsdale apartment, Michael Mancini said.

George Mancini's daughter, Elysia Mancini-Duerr of Philadelphia, spoke in more measured tones.

While asking Czajka to impose the maximum prison sentence, Mancini-Duerr said members of her own family, including her mother, have been affected by mental illness.

She asked that Demagall receive treatment for his condition, though his prison placement now falls with the state corrections system, not with the judge.

Mancini-Duerr depicted an adored father, whom she described as her closest friend along with her husband. She said her father's violent death haunts her waking and sleeping life, and it has impaired her ability to work as a lawyer.

"I don't want to be awake because it's too upsetting," she said. "I can't sleep because all I see are horrible things."

The person she would call for comfort — her father — is gone, she said.

She said he was a peaceful, gentle, trusting and loving man, with a particular genius for numbers and memorization. He was a good listener, the receptacle and dispenser of family history and childhood memories, she said.

"Having my father gone is like having a huge chunk of my own life gone," she said.

Mancini was a teacher of 25 years, who taught thousands of children.

"He valued intellect as a virtue," Mancini-Duerr said.

Ironically, her father was fascinated with aspects of televised court proceedings, and would call her to talk about legal concepts, she said.

Of Demagall, she said, her worst nightmare is that he would get out of prison "and do this again."

Judge Czajka, after hearing Mott's plea for the lesser sentence, asked Demagall if he would like to speak.

"No, thank you, your honor," he replied.

As he was led from the courtroom, his family called to him, "We love you, Will. We love you, Will."

Before the proceedings yesterday, Demagall's father, Steven Demagall of Dalton, said he was prepared for the worst sentence.

"The judge has steered this all the way through trial to the desired verdict," said Demagall, a reference to a number of rulings against the defense before, during and after the trial. "I think he has ignored the testimony of psychiatrists. But this is a step along the way, it's not the end."

Demagall will be taken to a correctional facility in Fishkill, N.Y., where his final sentencing location will be determined.

Czajka included a request that Demagall be placed in a facility equipped to treat mental illness.