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Convicted Murderer's Mother Speaks Out

Posted: February 29, 2008 1:45 a.m.
Updated: May 1, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
While Robert Wheeler was sentenced last week to serve two life sentences plus 100 years to life, his mother sought out a voice to prevent similar crimes from occurring in the future.

"I'm pretty outraged," said Laura Partlow, who spoke to The Signal after the sentencing hearing at the San Fernando Branch of the Los Angeles County Criminal Courts. "I was told I could speak and explain a little of what's happened in his life and the reason why this happened."

According to Partlow, Wheeler's public defender promised her an opportunity to speak to the judge during the sentencing hearing. She had hoped to speak out about the disease that her son suffered from when he went on a shooting rampage in Stevenson Ranch on Jan. 1, 2005, killing one and injuring two others. Wheeler plead guilty Feb. 1 to one count of first-degree murder and two of attempted murder. He admitted all allegations of use of a firearm to commit the crimes.

Partlow added that other family members would also be allowed to speak at the sentencing hearing, and that several letters written on Wheeler's behalf would be read to the court by the judge. Yet Partlow told The Signal that at the sentencing hearing, the judge did not allow her to speak to the court, nor were any letters read by the judge.

"I should not be robbed of my rights to speak and allow people to hear my side of the story," Partlow tearfully said. "I am extremely offended about the fiasco of the system. I have never broken the law and I never will. The treatment has been horrific in L.A. County."

Partlow wanted to have a voice in order to explain the ill effects of her son's disease and to educate the court - and the public - about the disease so crimes like this may be prevented in the future.

"We're very, very hurt that we weren't able to elaborate about how painful this is for us," she added. "This is a horrible crime, but there was a story behind it. Parents need to know about the effects of these drugs that are given to their children and how it may make them homicidal."

Yet according to Joan Croker, head deputy of the Los Angeles County Public Defender, the judge did allow Wheeler's mother an opportunity to speak, yet cut her opportunity short when he reasonably believed that her statements would not assist Wheeler's case or sentencing in any manner.

"Coen is a 'by the book' judge," Croker said. "There is no way he would completely prevent her from speaking unless it was against procedure."

Partlow explained that, since age 14, Wheeler suffered from Crohn's Disease. She further explained that her son received many medicinal treatments, such as high doses of prednisone, which damaged his brain and made him delusional. The medicine also left physical stretch marks on his body, and he also had a few feet of intestines removed because of the disease. At one point, Wheeler was put on an antidepressant drug called Taxol, which was known to cause homicidal and suicidal effects.

"After treatments, he was ungrounded and mentally not normal," Partlow said. "He will suffer from a sickness that stay with him the rest of his life. Crohn's disease must be actively monitored. I don't think he will be properly treated in jail. These facts were not allowed to be presented in the court."

While not trying to excuse her son's actions during his shooting spree on Jan. 1, 2005, which killed one man and seriously injured two others, Partlow sought an opportunity to explain the fallout from treatment of Crohn's Disease.
"He takes full responsibility for what happened," she said. "He blamed it on delusion, but it was a fact, not an excuse. He doesn't belong in prison. He belongs in a mental institute for the rest of his life. He is very ill."

Accordingly to Partlow, Wheeler even warned doctors that the medication he was prescribed to take made him feel like killing someone.

"It was the combination of different medicines that caused my son to become extremely delusion and skewed his sense of reality," she said.

Partlow added that she believed many of these drugs prevent people from thinking properly or logically, pointing out that she has followed similar cases involving murder or attempted murder by people psychotic medication in Illinois, Louisiana and Florida. How can this be prevented in the future, she rhetorically asked.

To put Wheeler's shooting spree and medical reaction in perspective, Partlow shed light on his persona.

"He never exhibited any kind of anger," she said. "His demeanor is very gentle and kind, and he is a very pleasant person to be around. He is a sweet, kind person when he is not delusional.

"Many of his family and friends could not fathom Robert doing something like this."

She added that Wheeler has been a model prisoner and very compliant with authority figures. He was also a compliant student who never needed discipline and never showed any level of anger or hostility.

"It was the medicine and treatment that worsened him and made him go ballistic," his mother added.

As Wheeler prepared to serve his sentence, Partlow said she understood the loss and suffering of the victims.

"We know the loss they went through, we are so saddened for them," Partlow said of the victims. "I've lost my son and my son's daddy in my arms, so I know what it means to suffer loss.

"Now we have to experience the loss of a son who will be behind the bars for the rest of his life and he may not even receive proper treatment for his illness."

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