Crime & Courts

Dylann Roof’s attorneys suspected he had autism, said he had ‘blushing attacks’

Dylann Roof pleads guilty to state murder charges for deadly Charleston church shooting

Dylann Roof pleads guilty to state murder charges for deadly Charleston church shooting .
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Dylann Roof pleads guilty to state murder charges for deadly Charleston church shooting .

Charleston church killer Dylann Roof suffers from “blushing attacks,” believes his forehead is “too large and ugly” and likely suffers from autism, attorneys representing him told an examiner, according to a recently unsealed evaluation.

The Nov. 15 report was written after several examinations were conducted to see if Roof was mentally fit to stand trial by order of presiding federal judge Richard Gergel. The report reveals extensive details involving Roof’s past, including his drug and criminal history, and his admittance that he has “all kinds of anxiety.”

The evaluation, unsealed on Wednesday along with hundreds of documents, was conducted after Roof submitted a letter to the prosecution claiming his attorneys were preparing to use a “lie that he was autistic.” He would later tell court-appointed evaluator James Ballenger he learned of the “autism idea” from his father, Franklin Roof.

The evaluation delayed the start of the federal trial until December.

Other details the report revealed noted Roof’s drug use dates back to when he was 12 years old and used marijuana three times a day. Roof told Ballenger he stopped using marijuana when he was 16. He allegedly told people he had stopped using marijuana because it caused him to be paranoid and hear voices.

Roof also told evaluators he had suffered from perhaps one panic attack and previously had been placed on medication for anxiety, the report, written by psychiatrist Dr. James Ballenger, said. Yet, his defense attorneys told Ballenger that Roof did not want pictures shown in court because he suffered from “blushing attacks” that take place when he’s upset in public.

“They describe that he has ‘blushing attacks’ when he is upset in public, and his ‘whole body blushes, including his face, arms, and exposed areas,’” the report said. “One of their experts has suggested it is like panic attack. These attacks began when he was 16, and the triggers are not clear.”

His attorneys also said Roof was obsessed with his appearance, primarily his forehead, which he felt was “too large and ugly,” though Ballenger said Roof dispelled having any “strong feelings about his forehead.”

Other details shared in a different report from January, also written by Ballenger, revealed Roof did not want any mental health evidence introduced at his trial because he didn’t want “any issue to take away from the rationale he had for committing his crimes.”

“He stated that if his reputation was ruined, ... that his ‘life would be ruined.’ He continues to feel that the only thing that is important to him is to protect his reputation,” Ballenger wrote.

At the end of the report, Ballenger gave his opinion: Roof was competent to continue with his ongoing death penalty federal trial in the 2015 white supremacist slayings of nine African-American Bible study group members at a historic Charleston church.

Among his conclusions, Ballenger said Roof had “perhaps some Autistic traits” and meets the criteria for “Social Anxiety Disorder, probably Generalized Anxiety Disorder, possible Autistic Spectrum Disorder, a Mixed Substance Abuse Disorder, depression by history and a Schizoid Personality Disorder.” None, however, would seriously impact his competency to stand trial, Ballenger concluded.

Gergel agreed with Ballenger’s conclusion that Roof was not psychotic but had “a deep seated, extensive and well established prejudice againt blacks, Jews and homosexuals” and allowed Roof to stand trial.

To support that argument, Ballenger wrote in the report it was “reasonable to postulate that (Roof’s) father’s racial prejudices and belief that a race war may well be coming and his fondness for guns may have provided a stimulus for development of the defendant’s ideas.”

Ballenger went on to write that the elder Roof’s ex-wife told the FBI in July 2015 that Roof “sang a very offensive rap song about ‘n------’ when he was 21 years old at the urging of his father.” Roof’s father also allegedly told her just days before the June church massacre how “he was preparing for a race war and the evidence was in the news, as well as how he had bought a gun and had gotten a concealed weapons permit.”

In December, a federal jury in Charleston found Roof guilty of the killings. On Jan. 10, after three hours of deliberations, the jury gave an unremorseful Roof the death penalty.

On Wednesday, Gergel denied motion for acquittal or a new trial by Roof, who argued he should not have been tried in federal court because his crime did not meet interstate commerce standards. Gergel wroote that Roof used the internet, phone and GPS to navigate interstate highways, and bought bullets, a firearm and magazines that were part of interstate commerce.