Trial begins for daughter accused of killing mother after failed exorcism

Rita Camilleri, 57, and her daughter, Jessica Camilleri, 27, of St Clair, New South Wales. [Image credit: The Sydney Morning Herald]

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Over the last two days those in attendance in Justice Helen Wilson's courtroom in the New South Wales Supreme Court have heard a slew of disturbing information related to the July 20, 2019 stabbing and decapitation of 57-year-old Rita Camilleri at the hands of her own daughter.


Some of that evidence presented to the court includes the emergency call that 27-year-old Jessica placed at approximately 11:30 pm after the attack.


"I need you to get the ambulance and the police out immediately... this is an immediate life-or-death situation," Jessica was heard saying in the recording before handing the phone to her neighbor saying, "my hand's bleeding."


The neighbor though, wasn't entirely sure concerning what had happened and could only relay that Jessica had said she had a fight with her mother before Jessica is heard in the background saying, "My mum just tried to stab me... in self-defense, I think I killed her."


Jessica asked if emergency services could come immediately claiming, "My fingers are broken."


She takes the phone back and is heard telling the operator, "mum has had enough of me because I admit I've been a challenge. She grabbed me by the hair and dragged me all the way to the kitchen, and she got a knife and tried to stab me with it."


Jessica took the knife from her mother though and began stabbing her.  "I just kept stabbing and stabbing and stabbing her and I took off her head."  She then explained that she began walking to her neighbor's house with her mother's head "for evidence."


"I had my mum's head in my hand... I know it sounds crazy. I didn't know what I was doing," she said.


Australian media describes Jessica as someone that suffers from "multiple mental illnesses, autism spectrum disorder and a mild intellectual disability."  The Australian Broadcasting Company reports that she had prescribed medication, but would deliberately vomit the medication back up.


The court was also able to watch the bodycam footage from Senior Constable Anthony D'Agostino as he interviewed Jessica who was described as wearing "a blue dress with flowers on it, covered in blood from head to toe, carrying a mobile phone and a bottle of water."


The recording began at 11:43 and Jessica is heard saying, "My mum's head is on the concrete over there" before asking, "Can you bring someone back to life if they don't have a head? Can you bring her back to life?"


She repeatedly asks the officers if they can bring her mother back only pausing to to ask, "I won't get the death penalty or anything?" One officer answers her question saying, "We don't do the death penalty in Australia." Jessica's response was, "Okay, so I've got nothing to worry about."


She then continues with her previous line of questioning asking, "There's nothing you can do, she's a goner? They can't restart her heart? 'Cos I know doctors can do miracles they can't resew her head?"


She was heard telling the officer, "I have a history of mental illness.  Everyone in my family has had enough of me."


Later, in an interview at the St Mary's Police Station she said, "I couldn't stop myself... the only time I could stop myself was when her head came off."


During that same interview, Jessica had told officers that she wanted to give her mother "a taste of her own medicine" indicating that she estimated she had stabbed her mother between 85 and 88 times.


She in fact, stabbed her more than 100 times with several different knives, some of which broke during the attack.


During the first day of the case, a family friend, Kristy Torrisi told the court that Rita had been "desperate for anything to help" her daughter to the point that she paid $2,500 AUD to a "spirit communicator" to "get the demon out" of Jessica.


Torrisi told how Rita had been quoted a price close to $5,000 AUD to get rid of "Jessica's demon" by the medium, a "she wolf" but that she "never got any service."


Jessica has been charged with murder to which she has pleaded not guilty due to mental illness.  She is not contending the fact that she killed her mother.  The question before the jury focuses on her mental faculties.


Her counsel, Nathan Steel told the court that, "Due to the effects of her mental conditions, she had an impaired capacity at the time of the events."  He told the jury that he would be calling forensic psychiatrists to the stand which would testify that his client was "substantially impaired" by long-term mental illness.


The Crown Prosecutor Tony McCarthy has argued that Jessica "had a lengthy history of assaulting people" including issuing threats to other family members as well as random strangers, even threatening to cut people's heads off with a knife in the past.


McCarthy drew a connection to the fact that Jessica is a fan of horror movies including in particular, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. "A feature of these movies," McCarthy said, "was killing people violently and dismembering their bodies."

The case is expected to last close to another week.  Should the jury find that Jessica is not guilty by reason of mental illness, the murder charge against her could be reduced to manslaughter.