Lawyers present intoxication defense for retired Air Force major who shot family

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Lawyers defending a retired Air Force major accused of shooting his estranged family claimed in court, Wednesday, that prescription drugs caused him to open fire.

Thomas Maffei’s defense attorneys claim post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety caused him to go to the Veterans Affairs clinic on Nov. 2, 2012, where he received prescription pills and a tranquilizer. Hours later, he went to his then-wife’s Coral Springs apartment and shot her and her father.

“I understood I was under enough stress, and I went to the VA, and I went to the crisis clinic,” Maffei said during questioning by police. “He said my EKG [electrocardiogram] was bad, my heart is bad, my lungs are bad. I have cancer in my lungs. He referred me down to crisis center, and they prescribed me medication.”

Prosecutors charged Maffei with the attempted murder of his ex-wife Katherine Ranta and his father-in-law, among other charges. His trial began, Monday, in Broward Circuit Court.

Related: Trial continues for retired Air Force major who shot estranged wife, father-in-law

The clinic prescribed Maffei Oxycodone for back pain and Clonazepam, a sedative, the defense said. Maffei said he took several pills, and that sent him into a rage, clouding his intent.

“He was given drugs that are psychotropic or hypomanic mixed with the other drugs that he has,” the defense attorney said. “All of it then results in a rage shooting that the wife testifies that he’s in a state she’s never seen him in.”

The defense called to the stand a psychiatrist who testified about Maffei’s mental state.

“[He reported being] extremely anxious, having panic attacks, having severe insomnia, having agitation, extreme depressed mood,” said a psychiatrist on the stand. “He expressed over the context of that he was in the midst of a divorce, in conflict with his wife and didn’t know where his child is.”

However, prosecutors argued, Maffei was calm the night of the shooting.

“He knew exactly what he was doing,” prosecutor Molly McGuire said. “He formed a plan, he went and he carried it out in such a way.”

About 10 minutes of the 911 phone call Ranta made was played out for jurors.

“My estranged husband is here, and he’s trying to get into my…” Ranta said during the call. “I need help. I need help. I need help right now.”

Ranta took the stand, Tuesday. She told the jury that Maffei came to her Coral Springs apartment and fired three shots through her apartment door as she and her father leaned against it, trying to keep him out.

“There’s nothing that came from any of them that suggests that he was in any shape or form intoxicated,” McGuire said.

“The very act of shooting people indicates there’s something wrong with somebody,” the defense attorney responded.

Both sides rested their cases, Wednesday afternoon. They will begin their closing arguments, Thursday. Jurors will also begin deliberations, Thursday.

If convicted, Maffei faces 25 years to life behind bars.

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