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Campus Crazies:

­— By Jane Pojawa

How a mentally ill student became San Gabriel’s Barbecue Tongs Murderer George W. Pigman IV sat expressionless as the verdict was read. His red hair, blue eyes and delicate features stood in contrast to his haunted, angry look. He had not spoken throughout his trial. He didn’t speak now. It took less than two full days of deliberation for the Pasadena Superior Court jury to find this son of a prominent Caltech professor guilty of first-degree murder. This shocking case of a child of privilege brutally murdering his girlfriend had been simmering in the justice system for some time. Despite the brevity of the final phase of the trial, the impact of the verdict was overwhelmed by a secondary verdict: that he was in fact, insane at the time of the murder. There is no doubt of Pigman’s culpability in the cold-blooded killing of Eimi Yamada, but the final sentence, “not guilty by reason of insanity,” was trivialized by the question of George Pigman’s mental


the insider | Spring 2013

health. First degree murder. Not guilty by reason of insanity. Did Pigman know what he was doing at the time of the murder? The “insanity defense” is often portrayed as nothing more than a criminal’s last-ditch effort to escape punishment. Insanity is a topic that rests uneasily upon the American conscience; it is a tragic variable of the human mind that is not uncommon in our society. In our efforts to accommodate mental illness, a rift has developed between protecting the rights of the afflicted, and protecting the public from the depredations of the insane. People suffering from mental illness cannot be completely isolated from society, nor can they be fully integrated. Although medication is a powerful tool in treating mental illness, there continues to be an astonishing lack of identification and treatment of mentally ill individuals who may one day “snap” and destroy innocent lives.  Pigman had fallen very far, very fast,

but from the onset there were clues that he was a deeply troubled young man. This murder could have and should have been prevented. Eimi Yamada, a 21-year-old Japanese international student, tried to look away, tried to block the endless blows, as she was stabbed to death on the bathroom floor of her San Gabriel apartment in May of 2005. The police found her body nude except for a blue T-shirt wrapped around her neck. She lay in a semi-fetal position. George Wood Pigman IV murdered Eimi Yamada with a semi-sharp pair of scalloped-edged kitchen utility tongs in

Darby Williams, left, one of George Wood Pigman IV’s public defenders, sits with him during opening statements on Feb. 4, 2009. Photo by Walt Mancini for San Gabriel Valley News.

a haze of delusion. She was beaten and stabbed multiple times not only on her face, but on all extremities, back and front.  Her death was not swift or in any way justifiable; it was extremely slow and painful, the assault lasting 20 to 30 minutes. She may have clung to life after losing consciousness. She did not have the tools to defend herself either physically or socially; she was killed in her own home by someone she loved and trusted. Unfortunately, Yamada’s tragic case is not unheard of in today’s culture of violence.  It is a fact that instances like this have become an accepted reality that is most troubling.  The Columbine High School massacre of April 20, 1999, in which Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, killed 12 students and one teacher, and wounded 21 others before committing suicide is etched on the public consciousness as being the first “school shooting,” although shootings in schools have occurred in the United States as far back as the 1700s. Some were accidental, some were malicious and some the direct result of mental illness. The body count rises as does the number of incidents and public debate rages as to what to do about “campus crazies.” Following Jared Lee Loughner’s Tucson shootings of 2011, Philip Mullendore, Glendale’s Interim Campus Chief of Police, hosted two packed presentations in the auditorium. “From Creepy To Killer: Recognizing the Warning Signs of Potentially Violent Behavior on Campus,” provided the campus community with guidelines for coping with troubled students. “Many people struggle with mental illness,” said Mullendore. “Very few of them are violent. Every teacher will, at some point, have to deal with a student whose behavior is inappropriate.”

George Pigman’s strange behavior was not unnoticed, but it wasn’t until after he brutally murdered a Japanese student that he was diagnosed with mental illness.

Amy Sterling Casil reported in a recent article for policymic, “Jared Lee Loughner had been reported to campus police at Pima Community College for threatening behavior at least 18 times prior the rampage that grievously injured former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and took the lives of six others. It took a 51-page mountain of written reports and evidence for Loughner to be banned from

campus.” Some members of Glendale’s campus community are concerned that something similar could happen here. Mullendore stressed the need to set clear limits on acceptable behavior, documenting incidents and when to call the campus police. “Tell them: I am uncomfortable with you standing this close to me. In this class, we do not yell,” he said, listing possible examples of inappropriate behavior that could precede a violent episode. “Keep a journal of incidents, and if you feel that a student has crossed the line, do not hesitate to call the campus police.” He was not aware that the

barbecue tongs murderer of San Gabriel was once a student at GCC. Pigman, 23 at the time of his crime, grew up in Pasadena. His father, George Wood Pigman III, was a venerable Caltech literature professor with a specialty in the history of psychoanalysis and dream theory. His mother, Celeste Moore, was an art professor at Pasadena City College. Despite being raised in an environment where education was encouraged, Pigman’s academic career was checkered at best. Like many who suffer from mental illness, Pigman is fairly articulate and at one time aspired to be a journalist. In 2008, the Pasadena StarNews reported that Pigman “liked to do stuff that was… risky,” according to high school classmate Daniel Faubert. Another classmate, Ryan Barker, alleged that Pigman “was heavily involved with hallucinogenic mushrooms.” It was at Pasadena City College, the school he attended from the fall of 2001 to the spring of 2004, that indications of his mental illness first came to light. He wrote for the Courier, the student newspaper. His writing style was self-indulgent and disorganized, more rant than report. His articles with were marked with selfaggrandizement and a passiveaggressive, condescending attitude toward women and society.  In one of the few of his article that made it to print, “Punk Rock Finds a Voice with New Mag,” Pigman unnecessarily made the theme of a story about a magazine entrepreneur’s success running an indie punk zine  into that of a jilted lover trying to prove that he is not “a loser” to his ex-girlfriend and other critics.  “His e-mail file was full of letters from disappointed fans telling him not to “be a loser,” wrote Pigman about Jerry Coria editor of Punk Rock Tonight. “But his main inspiration for continuing the magazine was [ex-girlfriend] Georgina Alcaraz. He [Coria] wanted to prove he could run the magazine on his own.” “I remember him acting strange at a JACC [Journalism Association of

Spring 2013 | the insider 3

“She was yelling and kicking and not dying. I had to kill her. I looked around for a knife or

something... I picked up a pair of semi-sharp salad

tongs. I chased her into the bathroom. I started stabbing.”

— George W. Pigman IV

Community Colleges] convention at Cal State Fullerton,” recalled Linda Rapka, a former Courier editor-in-chief. “Rather than attend any workshops, he had spent the entire time in his hotel room drinking. I gave him a ride back home after the convention, and he kept asking me if he could smoke weed in my car and if I’d buy him booze at the liquor store (he was then underage). I, of course, denied both requests. When we got to town, rather than have me drop him off at home, he had me stop off at a birdbath several blocks away from his house, which was odd since he was in crutches at the time and could barely walk.” In another strangely self-justifying article, Pigman voiced his disdain for schools, characterizing teachers as “people who approach the profession as an opportunity to feel good about being right,” and expressed his belief that attendance and grading should not be features of the educational system. “It makes no sense for people to be considered qualified or unqualified based on evaluation through testing,” continued Pigman. “The system produces certified and ignorant professionals, while leaving intelligent people behind.” “From what I remember, we were in the Courier office (upstairs above campus police at that time),” said Rapka, recalling the incident that led to Pigman’s expulsion, “and he told off Editor-in-Chief Mitchell Wright, after which he was escorted into the hallway by campus police where a bottle of vodka was discovered in his backpack.” In March of 2004, Pigman was removed from the staff of the Courier for being


the insider | Spring 2013

rowdy and intoxicated. According to Rapka, Pigman was allowed to continue taking classes on campus as long as he dropped his journalism class. After causing another disturbance in an English class, he failed to appear at his disciplinary hearing and was later expelled.  A small amount of marijuana was involved. He transferred to Glendale the next semester.  During his time here, his bizarre behavior did not go unnoticed. Jeff Smith, his speech professor, recalls Pigman as “detached and passive.”  Smith was disturbed by Pigman’s reclusive nature because he liked to “connect with his students, and with George there was just no way of reaching him.”  Smith also recalls a number of instances of being startled by Pigman when he would oftentimes “lurk in the darkness with his skateboard” and “appear without warning.” Unfortunately, Pigman was unable to make a fresh start at his new school. His mental illness stayed with him, growing, until it could no longer be contained. At around 2 a.m. on May 7, 2005 Los Angeles Sheriff Deputies were called to investigate a suspicious man on the roof of an apartment in the 6800 block of La Presa Drive in San Gabriel.  Responding officer Cesar Casillas testified “When I arrived at the address, I saw a white male adult standing on the rooftop of the indicated location. He was naked. I saw that he had blood on his hands, legs and genital area. He was making loud noises, appeared disoriented, angry and pacing from one side of the roof to the other.” Lt. Gregory Hinkle, a Temple City Patrol Sergeant also testified, “I saw a young, naked man on the roof. He was

playing with his penis.” About the loud sounds, Hinkle told the jury that Pigman was not saying words, but rather “It reminded me of the old Frankenstein movie, where Frankenstein is making his noises.” Investigators said they do not know why Pigman was on the roof. He had minor lacerations on his hands, which could have been from the crime scene or possibly from cutting himself on a rain gutter, Carrillo said. As it turned out, it was the rain gutter. And Pigman didn’t surrender easily. For almost half an hour he paced back and forth, taunting the police, screaming and touching his genitals. Eventually he came down from the roof and was arrested. A block away, in the 8500 block of Palma Vista Street, a parallel story unfolded. Pigman and Yamada’s altercation was heard by the downstairs neighbor, Yi-Ming Chu. In the silence that followed, Chu became sufficiently concerned that she called Daniel Hong who, with his girlfriend Ann Chiou, lived in one of the units towards the back of the complex. Hong and Chiou heard some yelling around 1 a.m., but assumed that it was from a neighborhood party. It was the very early hours of Saturday, after all. After receiving the call, Hong went to investigate and found blood on the door knob. Repeated knocks got no response so he and Chiou drove to the landlord, Steve Hung’s, San Marino home. The coroner’s investigator’s narrative stated that Hung and his wife Gloria returned with Hong and Chiou sometime after 1:30 a.m. Hung let himself into the apartment with his key, and discovered Yamada unresponsive on

the bathroom floor. Gloria Hung called 911 at that time. More than an hour had passed since the assault began. Eimi Yamada was the only child of Toichi Yamada and Kayo Yamaguchi. She was a pretty, bright girl who was studying English at the Poly Languages Institute on Lake Avenue and had been enrolled in an ESL class at the PCC Community Education Center earlier in the year, according to Rapka. Eimi’s father, Toichi, stated that Eimi was planning to return to Japan in July, two short months away, and had already gotten a job offer from a shipping company impressed with the computer and English skills she had acquired while studying in Pasadena. She had everything in life to look forward to. In the year following Pigman’s expulsion from Pasadena City College and failed attempt to start over at Glendale, the beast within Pigman grew exponentially while he tried to self-medicate with alcohol and marijuana. Later, in his prison cell, he would write a self-justifying appraisal of the events leading up to the murder and his mindset when insanity engulfed him. Custody deputy Abi Ben-Sahile found a journal written by Pigman on a notepad during a routine search of his single-man cell. Ben-Sahile told Deputy District Attorney Teresa Sullivan that his training as a custody deputy taught him to examine paperwork found inside inmate’s cells, for escape plans, and for plans to commit violence. This document would later be admitted as evidence in the case. Pigman suffered from the delusion that the manager at his workplace, Noah’s Bagels, had Hispanic gang connections and was part of a conspiracy to kill him for disrespecting the “family.” “I was a pimp, I was a gangster,” he wrote. “I had almost got jumped in with the Bloods. Pasadena Denver Lanes. Mountain View Bloods. I was hard. I knew about such things.” His manager, José, correctly deduced

that something was wrong with Pigman and sent him home, but in Pigman’s paranoid reality the stakes were much higher. “People were trying to kill me,” he continued. “I couldn’t contact the police because I had a half ounce of chronic in my backpack and I was a gangster. I couldn’t snitch. I skateboarded south on Lake as fast as I could. Every car I saw was one of the killers.” Three years later, during the competency part of the trial, Dr. Kris Mohandie, a clinical psychologist, diagnosed Pigman as having a personality disorder not otherwise specified, or a mixed-personality disorder, with Pigman meeting some criteria for both anti-social personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. “People who suffer from anti-social personality disorder have a pattern of violating the rights of others, and rules of society,” Mohandie said. When Public Defender Darby Williams called her last witness, Dr. Joseph Ortego, the clinical supervising psychiatrist for Los Angeles County Twin Towers Correctional Facility, he diagnosed Pigman as suffering from bipolar I disorder and grandiose delusional. The defense also called forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gregory Cohen, who testified that Pigman suffers from bipolar I disorder with psychotic features, and could not have appreciated the nature of his actions due to what he phrased as a “first manic break.” “The family, particularly on the father’s side, has a history of acute mental disorders,” Cohen told the jury. “An uncle on the father’s side is being treated for bipolar disorder. There’s a genetic predisposition for the disorder.” Despite his history of aberrant behavior, Pigman had never been diagnosed with or treated for mental illness prior to his arrest. Overcome with paranoia, Pigman crawled into someone’s hedge and contemplated “smoking a bowl” to calm down. He was discovered by the homeowner and said to her “Listen Lady, these people are trying to kill me. I need a place to hide.” She offered to call the police. He

panicked. She told him that he could not continue to hide in her bushes and that she would call the police if he did not leave immediately. Pigman complied. A urine sample taken from Pigman following his arrest indicated that he had 1185 nanograms per milliliter of marijuana metabolite in his system at the time he murdered Yamada. That may be interpreted several different ways including habitual, long-term use or acute use. Fifty or 100 nanograms, depending on stringency standard enforced, is considered a “positive” for a standard employment drug test. This test also verified that Pigman had no measurable amount of alcohol or other drugs in his system at the time of the murder. Marijuana is generally not considered to be a violence-inducing drug; in fact one of its medicinal uses is to reduce anxiety. But in a susceptible person, there might be other effects. A 2009 study by Masood A. Khan and Sailaja Akella, “Cannabis-Induced Bipolar Disorder with Psychotic Features,” published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, presented the theory that excessive marijuana use might not be the sole cause of the psychotic break, but that may have triggered it. “There has been considerable debate regarding the causal relationship between chronic cannabis abuse and psychiatric disorders,” proposed Khan and Akella. “Clinicians agree that cannabis use can cause acute adverse mental effects that mimic psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Although there is good evidence to support this, the connections are complex and not fully understood.” It is possible that Pigman’s chronic marijuana use contributed to this episode. In his journal, Pigman stated that in the week leading up to Eimi’s murder, his

The scalloped-edged metal tongs used in Yamada’s murder are a ubiquitous kitchen accessory and sell for about $8.

Spring 2013 | the insider


Delusional Disorder Delusional disorder, previously called paranoid disorder, is a type of serious mental illness called a “psychosis,” in which a person cannot tell what is real from what is imagined. The main feature of this disorder is the presence of delusions, which are unshakable beliefs in something untrue. People with delusional disorder experience non-bizarre delusions, which involve situations that could occur in real life, such as being followed, poisoned, deceived, conspired against, or loved from a distance. These delusions usually involve the misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences. In reality, however, the situations are either not true at all or highly exaggerated. People with delusional disorder often can continue to socialize and function normally, apart from the subject of their delusion, and generally do not behave in an obviously odd or bizarre manner. This is unlike people with other psychotic disorders, who also might have delusions as a symptom of their disorder. In some cases, however, people with delusional disorder might become so preoccupied with their delusions that their lives are disrupted. Grandiose Delusional Disorder: A person with this type of delusional disorder has an over-inflated sense of worth, power, knowledge, or identity. The person might believe he or she has a great talent or has made an important discovery. — source: mother, Celeste Moore, told her 23-yearold son to move out. She was fed up with his pot smoking. Pigman borrowed rent money from his father, George W. Pigman III, but then spent all but $100 on more marijuana. Pigman then turned to Eimi Yamada for succor, knowing that she was too soft-hearted to deny him anything. As he worked his way across Pasadena to Eimi’s apartment, he observed, “It was the


the insider | Spring 2013

“Was this a cold, calculated, premeditated killing, or was it something else?” — Darby Williams

apocalypse. The sky looked orange. People were trying to kill me.” He got his act together long enough to be charming and manipulative and sadistic. Eimi paid for everything in their relationship; he always pretended to have no money so that he would have more for drugs. He stole from her. He toyed with her emotions. He had other girlfriends: Utako, who was also Japanese, and Elaine, who was Chinese. Justifying his cruel behavior, Pigman said, “Everything happened at once. I got suspended from work, Utako said she never wanted to see me again, I got kicked out of my mom’s and moved in with Eimi all in one week.… I asked Eimi to be my official girlfriend…. It was crucial, I thought, to make Eimi love me as much as possible so that I’d have a place to stay. All it did was make her suspicious. She was used to me being mean to her.” They met up with one of Eimi’s friends, Misako Saito, who came over to help Eimi clean the apartment. “I felt a strange connection,” wrote Pigman. “The apocalypse was on. For a few days now things had been speaking to me. Everything was falling into place.” He flirted shamelessly with Misako, smoked copious amounts of weed and fantasized about being the “master of the world,” complete with beautiful women feeding him grapes and massaging his back. After Misako left, he and Eimi had sex and watched TV. And the television seemed to be speaking directly to George Wood Pigman IV. It suddenly became apparent that he was God and that Yamada was the Virgin Mary. What followed was rape and murder.

“I pounced on Eimi for sex,” explained Pigman. “I tried to stick it in but was too rough. She yelled and made a lot of noise. What was this, a demon? She kept yelling, as I tried for sex. I had to, you see. She was the Virgin Mary and I had to impregnate her to save the world. Then it was clear that she was a demon and I had to kill her. I tried to choke her and we thrashed about the room. She was yelling and kicking and not dying. I had to kill her. I looked around for a knife or something. There was only a pair of handcuffs. I picked up a pair of semi sharp salad tongs. I chased her into the bathroom. I started stabbing.” With no thought of Eimi, Pigman fled. “What had I done? I needed to get out of there. I stumbled past my weed, my pipe, my money, wallet, shoes and skateboard and jogged barefoot out the door. I fell over the front gate and I jogged off. My life was over. What had I done?” What he had done, of course, was murder the one person in his life who was trying to help him. The one person he hadn’t burned out with second chances. Within a few minutes, he would be naked, masturbating and screaming on a neighbor’s roof. He did not leave the house naked – he was wearing pants that he took off when he climbed on top of the building. Sheriff ’s homicide Detective Joseph Sheehy later testified that he was able to follow a trail of blood from the murder scene to the roof. Eimi Yamada was curled into a semifetal position on her right side, two small rugs, a power cord still plugged into a charging mobile phone, a sandal and a moderate amount of drying blood underneath her, according to the coroner’s report. The murder weapon, an 18-inch

semi-sharp pair of scalloped-edged kitchen utility tongs, variously described as “barbecue tongs” and “salad tongs” rested against her left thigh. Coroner’s officials later determined Yamada died of multiple stab wounds and blunt force injuries. Eimi’s parents were notified of her murder by the Japanese consulate. They were inconsolable. Toichi Yamada asked for the death penalty in a statement that described Pigman as a “worthless insect.” “All possible reasons for this heinous crime are footnotes and no more than simple excuses,” he wrote to the jury. Kayo Yamaguchi, shared her mother’s grief that she would never see her daughter grow up and have a family of her own. There would be no loves, no grandchildren and no opportunities to spend time together as a family. She makes a daily offering of flowers to Eimi to commemorate all the flowers that she will not receive from the many people whose lives she might have touched. Throughout his trial, Pigman’s defense team tried to make the case that he was insane. The prosecution sought to show malingering. What emerged was a mix of both: a mentally ill person desperately trying to prove he wasn’t by pretending he was. In testimony offered by Sheriffs Deputy Anthony Delaney, who was assigned to transport Pigman to the Los Angeles County Inmate Reception Center, Pigman described that night’s Conan O’Brian show, spontaneously offered “I really screwed up,” and then said “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but I think the only way to fight this is temporary insanity,” in a bizarre stream of consciousness. Barbara Beaser, a reporter from the Courier, noted some discrepancies in Pigman’s behavior; Deputy District Attorney Teresa Sullivan challenged Ortego’s diagnosis, referencing the initial intake form made when Pigman was first taken to jail. “‘He seems to be deliberately attempting to answer the questions illogically,’” Sullivan quoted from the intake form. “How do her notes factor in to your assessment, doctor?” she asked. “I was convinced he was more trying to pretend he wasn’t mentally ill,” Ortego responded.

Ortego also noted that Pigman displayed bizarre behavior after his arrest and two days later, on May 9, was sent to the Twin Towers County Jail’s psychiatric ward for “sitting naked in his prison cell, spitting at guards, behaving aggressively and in a sexually inappropriate manner.” According to Ortego, he was also “trying to incite a race riot.” The Whittier Daily News reported that Pigman was “discharged to the jail’s general population a few days later, but then was recommitted on May 24 when he was again deemed a danger to himself or others.” “If I die, the universe goes down with me but I can resurrect it,” Pigman told Ortego, who then modified his initial diagnosis to include grandiose delusions. Pigman also claimed to be in communication with rapper 50 Cent and President George W. Bush. It was nearly four years before Pigman’s sentencing concluded. The trial lasted for approximately six weeks, with two phases, the guilt phase and the sanity phase. The jury took less than two full days to return a guilty verdict, and about the same time to determine that he was legally insane when he killed Yamada. That he murdered Eimi  Yamada was never disputed. Co-counsel for Pigman, Public Defender Darby Williams, said “This is not a whodunit. This case is about one question: Why? Was this a cold, calculated, pre-meditated killing, or was it something else?” George Wood Pigman IV was convicted of first-degree murder Feb. 23, 2009, a crime that carries a mandatory 25-years-to-life sentence. Both Pigman’s and Yamada’s parents attended the trial. The sanity phase determined where he was to serve his time: Patton State Hospital. The verdict of “not guilty by reason of insanity,” reached on April 28, 2009, raised the issue of Pigman one day being “cured” and walking free. “George has a serious mental illness,” Public Defender Jose Colon said. “It has to be fully controlled before anybody would consider restoration. The possibility exists,

What Are the Symptoms of Bipolar I Disorder? During a manic episode in someone with bipolar disorder, elevated mood can manifest itself as either euphoria (feeling “high”) or as irritability. Abnormal behavior during manic episodes includes:

• Flying suddenly from one idea to the next

• Rapid, “pressured,” and loud speech

• Increased energy, with hyperac• • • •

tivity and a decreased need for sleep Inflated self-image Excessive spending Hypersexuality Substance abuse

People in manic episodes may spend money far beyond their means, have sex with people they wouldn’t otherwise, or pursue grandiose, unrealistic plans. In severe manic episodes, a person loses touch with reality. They may become delusional and behave bizarrely. Untreated, an episode of mania can last anywhere from a few days to several years. Most commonly, symptoms continue for a few weeks to a few months. Depression may follow shortly after, or not appear for weeks or months. Many people with bipolar I disorder experience long periods without symptoms in between episodes. but the probability does not.” He added that a restoration of sanity hearing could go on for weeks. Pigman, who did not respond to requests for interview, will most likely spend the remainder of his life in jail.

Jane Pojawa is the editor-in-chief of the Insider. She is a compulsive researcher whose current work is at

Spring 2013 | the insider 7

Campus Crazies  

Campus Crazies: How a mentally ill student became San Gabriel’s Barbecue Tongs Murderer. One former student’s undiagnosed and untreated ment...

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