It was just some children playing baseball outside his apartment. But in Randy Moore’s troubled mind, they were menacing figures, his defense attorney said Monday. And they were out to get him.
Over the years, his delusions deepened, until it “came to dominate his life,” his lawyer, Matthew Kamholtz, told a Suffolk Superior Court judge. By summer 2011, he was hearing voices that were plotting to kill him, voices that seemed to come from the apartment downstairs.
Moore grabbed his shotgun, went downstairs in the Brighton apartment complex, and fatally shot an elderly man, William Thomas, in his wheelchair, Kamholtz said.
“He did so believing Mr. Thomas was part of a conspiracy that went back five or six years,” Kamholtz said on the first day of Moore’s murder trial in Suffolk Superior Court. “He was obsessed.”
On the morning of Aug. 10, 2011, medics found Thomas, 78, slumped in his wheelchair, gunned down in his living room at the John J. Carroll apartments, a development for the elderly and disabled.
Kamholtz asserted that Moore, a diagnosed schizophrenic who has suffered from mental illness since he was in the sixth grade, was insane at the time of the killing and should not be held criminally responsible.
A mental health specialist hired by prosecutors agreed, determining that Moore did not know what he was doing was wrong.
“It is something the Commonwealth cannot ignore,” an assistant district attorney, Julie Higgins, said of Moore’s long battle with severe mental illness.
Moore, 57, waived his right to a jury trial, allowing Judge Jeffrey Locke to determine whether he is sentenced to prison or committed to a psychiatric facility.
The facts in the case are not in dispute, and only two days of testimony are expected.
Locke determined that Moore was competent to stand trial, and a specialist said his mental state had markedly improved.
“His mental status is 180 degrees from when I saw him 2½ years ago,” said Jeffrey Miner, a forensic psychologist. “I found no evidence of paranoia.”
Moore, who showed no emotion in court, is taking a variety of medications.
Thomas moved to Boston from Georgia in the late 1950s and for years ran an auto body shop in Dorchester. He was a longtime deacon at the Grant African Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston and remained active despite declining mobility.
After shooting Thomas, Moore barricaded himself in his apartment, firing shots through the door at approaching officers, authorities said. As police cleared the building, Moore called 911, at one point telling the dispatcher he could use “more ammunition.”
“I’m the guy in the house with the gun,” he calmly told the emergency dispatcher.
When the dispatcher asked Moore what had happened, he replied, “It’s a long story.” In a conversational tone, the dispatcher asked him if he had been having troubles at home.
“They’re solved now,” Moore replied. Moore later asked for a negotiator.
Moore eventually surrendered and was taken into custody without further violence.
In the years before the shooting, Moore had come to believe his life was in danger and filed complaints with the housing authority and the police, his lawyer said.
Shortly after moving to Brighton from East Boston in 2009, he went to a nearby police station to convey his fears.
Moore believed that the ringleader of the group who harassed him in East Boston, a man Moore called Michael, had moved into the Brighton complex, his lawyer said.
“He was hearing voices of people who were plotting to kill him,” Kamholtz said. “Eventually, Mr. Moore couldn’t take it any longer, and he went downstairs with a shotgun.”
Moore owned the gun legally, authorities said.
Melvin Ruiz, a Boston homicide detective, testified that Moore shot Thomas once in the chest while a maintenance man was doing work in the bathroom.
As Moore returned to his apartment, the man heard Thomas cry out, Ruiz said.
“That boy shot me,” Thomas said.John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.