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"He had pulled a knife on the babysitter": Dervish's mother recounts his impulsive childhood

Psychologist testifies on Dervish's paranoia and delusion at time of shooting
Posted at 3:47 PM, May 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-15 11:43:19-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — As a child, Murad Dervish pulled a knife on his baby sitter. That was one detail that came out today as attorneys for Dervish, charged with the 2022 on-campus murder of University of Arizona professor Thomas Meixner, put on their defense.

His defense is working to make a case for 'guilty except insane'. That would lock him in a psychiatric hospital instead of prison for killing Professor Meixner.

If it's true that no one knows you like your own mother, Dervish's mother had quite a story to tell—including an account of him pulling a knife on a baby sitter.

Dervish's mother Patricia Grace said Murad Dervish had a difficult birth. He was not born head first. He was blue from oxygen deprivation but later appeared to be fine.

She described young Murad Dervish as a good student but impulsive and unpredictable.

Grace said she remembered a day when Dervish was 10 years old: She came home, expected to find the babysitter, but didn’t:

Patricia Grace: "If I remember correctly the neighbor was there instead. And he told me he had pulled a knife on the babysitter.

Defense Attorney Derek Miller: "Your son told you that?"

Patricia Grace: “He did.”

Prosecutors say after threats from Dervish led the U of A to expel him, he held Thomas Meixner responsible and took his revenge.

Patricia Grace said her son Dervish was forced into psychiatric treatment twice, once in 1995 and again 2011. She said her son had physically abused her, but did not say more about what happened.

She said more recently phone calls from Dervish were often so combative she’d block him and change her number. But her son left this voicemail on October 5, 2022, after Thomas Meixner was dead:

“Mom. I gotta talk to you. I shot that guy. I hope he’s dead. I guess I have to kill myself now.”

Late today, a psychologist testifying for Dervish's defense said he believed at the time of the shooting Dervish was so caught up in paranoia and delusion that he did not know it was wrong to kill Meixner.

Not understanding it was wrong to commit a crime is a key element of concluding someone was guilty except insane.

Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 40 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.