MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — “The girls did not need to be saved from anything,” words from the prosecution on the second day of testimony in the Mercy trial of Julie Orellana.
The 47-year-old pleaded guilty last month to one count of murder and one count of attempted murder in the September 20, 2018 incident in which her 8 year old daughter Eliza was killed and her 11-year-old daughter Olivia was injured in a Tall Pine Lane home.
Two expert witnesses were on the stand in 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Michael Lorensen’s courtroom Thursday being asked extensively about Orellana’s struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder and Depression and how those mental illnesses played into her decisions.
Dr. Phillip Resnick is an expert in filicide – the killing of a child by a parent.
He testified Thursday that he believed the primary motive behind Julie Orellana’s plan to kill her children was altruistic. She told him she thought she’d be saving them from heartache and taking them to live with her forever in heaven.
He said in his conversations with her that he believed she had first decided to kill herself. After reflecting on what that might mean to her daughters if she left them behind, she decided they would all be better off ‘together.’
Resnick said the woman’s judgment was clouded by her severe depression and she felt a sense of hopelessness. He said she fixated on the prospect of her children being permanently altered by having a mother who had committed suicide.
Assistant Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Kinser questioned Resnick about another motive: anger.
Kinser said a note Orellana had written the day of the murder expressed a hope that her ex-husband Ed would suffer.
It read in part, “This is all your fault. The hell you have put me through the past two years is inexcusable. It’s your turn to suffer.”
Kisner attempted to establish that the real reason Orellana sought to kill her children was that she was angry that her role as a mother had been usurped by Ed Orellana’s new girlfriend. He alleged she complained about not receiving alimony and that her ex-husband now had gotten ‘everything.’
Resnick maintained that Julie Orellana’s primary goal was to kill herself. He said she told him she had pointed the gun at herself after shooting the girls, but she had loaded a bullet wrong and the gun malfunctioned.
She also told him she had tried to stab herself multiple times in the woods after she’d fled the house, but “that didn’t work.”
Kinser disputed that claim, saying the medical evidence did not support that Orellana had tried to stab herself that many times.
Kinser said audio from the dash cam on the day of her arrest revealed that she had said she didn’t want her daughters growing up in this crazy world – with her ex-husband. He said the nuance of that statement could reveal whether Orellana’s motives were selfless, only thinking of the girls – or selfish- motivated by her anger and hope to make her ex-husband suffer.
Dr. Resnick said he believed her primary motive was her sense of altruism, although he acknowledged she was furious about her loss of position and felt abandoned by her husband and children. He said her Borderline Personality Disorder and depression colored her view of reality and she saw her ex-husband and his new girlfriend as evil.
Testimony continues. Jurors will ultimately decide if Orellana will be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole or be granted mercy – the ability to petition for parole after 15 years.
Story by Marsha Chwalik