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Winchester library stabbing suspect was diagnosed with schizophrenia, lawyer says

Jeffrey Yao was brought into Woburn District Court in Woburn in February.
Jeffrey Yao was brought into Woburn District Court in Woburn in February.(Pool via Associated Press)

Mental health specialists have diagnosed Jeffrey Yao, the Winchester man who allegedly killed a medical student in a public library in February, with schizophrenia and noted his auditory hallucinations and penchant for speaking to imaginary people, his lawyer said Wednesday.

J.W. Carney Jr., an attorney for Yao, spoke to the Globe shortly after a judge ordered his client committed to Bridgewater State Hospital for an additional six months. Yao, 24, was sent to the hospital in early March.

He’s charged with murder in the Feb. 24 slaying of Deane Kenny Stryker, 22, who was sitting in a reading room at the Winchester Public Library when Yao allegedly stabbed her from behind.

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Yao is being held without bail, and Carney said his client intends to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

On Wednesday morning, Carney said, a hearing was held at Bridgewater State Hospital, where the medical director had filed a petition indicating that “Jeffrey Yao was seriously mentally ill, and that he is required to continue to be hospitalized and not returned to a correctional facility.”

Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan’s office declined to comment because the case is pending.

Prosecutors were not involved in Wednesday’s hearing.

Judge Michael Brennan ordered Yao committed to Bridgewater for six months to receive continued mental health treatment, Carney said.

He said he did not oppose that order, nor did he object to a separate petition to give hospital staff the right to provide Yao with antipsychotic medications against his will.

Carney said the medical team filed an affidavit indicating Yao “is not able to make a competent decision on his medications, in large measure because he does not appreciate the extent of his mental illness.”

To date, Carney said, Yao has not refused to take any of his prescribed medications.

Yao, Carney said, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and the affidavit stated that he “continues to have auditory hallucinations and is often heard screaming at night and appearing to be speaking to imaginary people.”

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The medical staff will decide in October whether to petition to keep Yao at Bridgewater for treatment or transfer him back to the custody of the Middlesex County sheriff.

Carney declined to say whether Yao has discussed the slaying of Stryker.

The prominent lawyer, whose prior clients have included James “Whitey” Bulger and Owen Labrie, has previously described Stryker’s death as a “terrible tragedy” that was “unquestionably related to [Yao’s] severe mental illness.”


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.