After murder verdict in cannibalism case, jury weighs sanity of Atherton arborist's killer | March 10, 2023 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - March 10, 2023

After murder verdict in cannibalism case, jury weighs sanity of Atherton arborist's killer

Experts testify about Francis Wolke's delusions of joining elite '1%'

by Cameron Rebosio

Defense lawyers argue that Francis Wolke, found guilty of first-degree murder last week in the 2018 killing of Atherton arborist Kathy Hughes Anderson, was insane and believed he had to commit cannibalism in order to join the "1%" and stay young forever.

The claim arose during court proceedings in Redwood City to determine whether Wolke was sane during the 2018 incident, following a guilty verdict by a jury on March 2. The sanity phase of the trial in San Mateo County Court began Monday and is expected to conclude Wednesday, March 9.

Defense attorney Connie O'Brien argued in opening statements that Wolke was suffering from psychosis at the time of the murder and that he was unable to understand his behavior as morally wrong. According to O'Brien, Wolke believed "he had to murder someone and potentially consume parts of the body to become a 'protein harvester' and join the 1%."

According to forensic psychiatrist Dr. George Wilkinson, an expert witness for the prosecution, whenever asked if he "ate flesh or consumed blood," Wolke would quickly state that he didn't recall, when he had been openly conversing with Wilkinson immediately before. Wilkinson said that Wolke would only respond this way to specific questions about the murder, leading Wilkinson to believe he was withholding information.

Wolke believed that if he moved to California from Cincinnati, where he grew up, he would become extremely wealthy and told his family that he had connections to important people in California. The "1%" Wolke was intent on joining refers to the incredibly rich and elite, whom Wolke believed would protect him because they were also committing acts of murder and cannibalism.

When asked about what he would do with such fabulous wealth, Wolke said that he would "take drugs and play video games," according to Wilkinson.

Wilkinson also testified that Wolke was on the highest dose of antipsychotics and a regular dose of antidepressants when they met. After testing, Wilkinson asserted that Wolke has an above-average verbal IQ.

Wolke was also given a test of imagination where he was asked what three things he could wish for if he had anything. Wolke wished for "teletransport" to go to Japan, the ability to duplicate anything from anywhere and a new body with a different nose and no injuries.

In the first phase of the trial, O'Brien said that Wolke had auditory hallucinations several times on the bus ride from Cincinnati to the Bay Area telling him that he had to commit sins to join the 1%, ultimately resulting in Wolke murdering Hughes Anderson with this intent.

Wilkinson said that despite believing Wolke was sane in the eyes of the law, he was certain Wolke was psychotic at the time of the murder. "He was well aware of what he was doing, in fact, it would have been necessary to fulfill the delusions," he said.

Wolke understood the societal morals surrounding murder, but "at the time (he) just didn't think about (the morals)" and he didn't think it was wrong because he believed so many powerful people were killing and eating people.

Wilkinson said that Wolke's delusion was not typical. He described most delusions that lead to murder as the person believing that they are saving the world by killing Satan, or that they have to kill so the voices don't hurt them or a loved one. Wilkinson said that Wolke's delusion was unique because it was for self-benefit.

Dr. David Berke, a forensic psychologist who testified for the defense team, said that Wolke believed "there exists a 1% of the population that kills people and eats their stem cells, which gives them almost eternal youth."

Berke also testified that Wolke, by staying in Hughes Anderson's house for hours following the murder and even taking a nap, proved he did not fully understand the gravity of his actions.

Wolke was tested and was not believed to be on drugs at the time of the murder despite heavy methamphetamine use in the past, but had shown evidence of psychosis without drugs in two prior hospitalizations for mental health.

Email Staff Writer Cameron Rebosio at [email protected]


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