On February 3, 2019 44-year-old Darshika Nilmini Kudaligama Withana was said to have been rubbing her husband's head moments before he grabbed a kitchen knife and brutally attacked her. During the course of the trial, Justice Bruno Fiannaca was presented with information detailing that Withana was left with 37 defensive injuries to her body and what appeared to be a bite mark on her upper arm.
Her husband, 46-year-old Upendra Pathmasri Ihalahewa is said to have called emergency services after the fatal stabbing and to have told the dispatcher that they had "an argument" and "she died."
According to information presented to the court, Ihalahewa and Withana had been married for four years and the marriage was said to have been arranged.
Neighbors of the couple reported that Ihalahewa had previously identified himself as being homosexual, and the state prosecuting attorney Robert Owen revealed during opening statements that he had been using a dating app "to meet random men for casual sex."
Despite this and witness statements saying that Withana was described as "consistently miserable," forensic psychiatrist Adam Brett found no reason to believe that the murder was an attempt to end an unhappy relationship but rather the result of a psychotic break.
"My interpretation was that it wasn't a relationship issue, it was the psychosis," Brett said.
After two interviews with Ihalahewa, Brett determined that he was "acutely psychotic" at the time of the attack and was unable to know that he shouldn't do what he did.
Information presented to the court further revealed that Ihalahewa had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic in 2014, but had stopped taking his medication, and reported that he was hearing "sounds coming in his mind" an would see "different faces" when he looked at his wife.
Ihalahewa described feeling as though he was "living in a cemetery," and stated that he had grabbed the knife when he saw "a ghost coming to take him," and "a devil coming to me."
He is said to have believed that his wife had plans with friends in Sri Lanka to have him killed.
One neighbor is reported to have heard a woman screaming for approximately 5 minutes before sending a text to a friend stating, "OMG, the woman next door just sounded like she was getting murdered and now it's deathly silent."
On Thursday, October 22, Justice Fianacca ruled that Ihalahewa "became overwhelmed" by his psychotic symptoms and so, could not understand the wrongness of his actions.
"Tragically, the deceased lost her life while trying to help the accused whose mental illness had not been adequately managed on part because of his failure to take his medication, resulting in a calamitous eruption of his psychosis into violent and fatal acts," he said, describing the attack as "brutal and persistent."
"Sadly, it is not the first case of its kind."
Despite the acquittal, Ihalahewa will remain in custody indefinitely at a hospital or prison for treatment until such a time that he is seen as suitable for release without causing a risk to the community.