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Judge rules without trial: US father not guilty by insanity in decapitation of disabled son

NEW ORLEANS - A U.S. father accused of beheading his disabled 7-year-old son was ruled not guilty by reason of insanity Friday, after several experts on mental illness concluded he was delusional and believed that his son was no longer real but had been replaced with a dummy.

State District Judge John LeBlanc made the rare decision in the case against Jeremiah Wright, 32, of Louisiana. Wright will not face a capital murder trial and will be returned to the state mental hospital in Jackson. That is where he had been held for much of the 2 1/2 years since his son, Jori Lirette, was killed on Aug. 14, 2011. The boy's head was left in the driveway of the home from which Lirette's mother, Jesslyn Lirette, planned to evict Wright.

"It was the only ruling, really, that the court could make," said the prosecutor in the case, Camille "Cam" Morvant. "There was indisputable testimony from experts that Mr. Wright was psychotic and delusional and suffered from a major mental disorder at the time of the crime."

Although such rulings are rare, Morvant said he had been involved in one about five or six years ago involving a young man from Des Allemands who had killed his father.

Wright had been returned to the Lafourche Parish Jail in the fall, after doctors found him competent to stand trial.

His attorney, Kerry Cuccia, said state law allows a ruling like the one Friday only if prosecutors agree that mental illness kept defendants from understanding at the time of a crime what they were doing was wrong.

The little boy had little speech, required round-the-clock care, and was fed through a tube. His dismembered body was found in trash bags.

Wright has believed from the start that he had dismantled a dummy that had taken his son's place, Cuccia said.

Wright told investigators in 2011 that recent signs — including being urinated and defecated on — had indicated to him that he was living with a dummy rather than his son, according to a sworn statement by police.

He also told police he and Jesslyn Lirette had fought the evening before, and that she had told him she was moving him out of the house.

Morvant said the decision was very difficult, but he had told the boy's family two years ago that it might be necessary.

Cuccia would not speculate on whether Wright might ever recover enough to be released from the East Louisiana State Hospital.

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