The defense called former New Hampshire state Sen. Robert Preston to the stand Thursday to testify that he remembered accused murderer John Salvi screaming in a Roman Catholic church on Christmas Eve 1994, two days before he attacked two abortion clinics. Preston testified that Salvi ranted that the church wasn’t doing enough to help Catholics, who Salvi said were being persecuted and were in danger of losing their homes. During Preston’s testimony, Salvi pressed his hands together as if in prayer.
Witnesses said Salvi shouted at the priest and the congregants attending the 5 p.m. Mass at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Seabrook, N.H. Salvi’s lawyers say that Salvi was insane at the time he killed two and wounded five others at two abortion clinics in Brookline, Mass. The prosecution maintains that Salvi was sane and that he was a man angry at his father who attended the church with him.
Salvi’s father, a key witness for the defense, says he thought his son would “grow out of” his bizarre behavior and that he regrets not seeking help when his son withdrew into Bible reading and spoke of watching people turn into vampires. Prosecutors implied that Salvi’s father had a well-documented history of protecting his son, and that he would say anything to that end. The judge refused to allow testimony on that subject.
Salvi would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted. If acquitted by reason of insanity, he would be confined to a mental hospital but could be released if authorities later find him sane.