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Mother: Mental illness took over son's life

By John Weiss

weiss@postbulletin.com

WABASHA -- Paul Douglas Liffrig of Mazeppa began showing signs of mental illness in his mid-teens, once taking everything out of his bedroom, another time getting frostbitten feet from walking barefoot in February.

But he was not a violent person when he was taking his medications, Kathy Liffrig said Monday during a break in the omnibus hearing for her son, who is charged in the death of her husband, Kenneth Liffrig.

"I don't think he would ever want to kill his father in his right mind," she said. "He would never want to kill anybody in his right mind."

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Paul Liffrig, 32, is charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 11, 2001, stabbing death of his father, Kenneth Liffrig, 54, at Kenneth Liffrig's home. Paul Liffrig was declared incompetent to stand trial and was held in St. Peter Treatment Center. Late last year, he was declared competent to stand trial. He has pleaded not guilty because of mental illness. His omnibus hearing was Monday in Wabasha District Court.

During a break in Monday's hearing, Kathy Liffrig said she and other family members at first thought Paul Liffrig was going through typical teenage maturing pains and that was why he had trouble relating to his family.

But he became more nervous and couldn't concentrate, said Donna Brown, Kathy Liffrig's sister.

And he started spitting on the floor at the Zumbrota-Mazeppa school, Liffrig said. When he tried to write a school paper, he rambled, often incoherently.

He then was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and medications helped him, Kathy Liffrig said. He learned to weld and traveled across the country working. He eventually decided to stay in Minnesota but hurt his back -- once playing softball, another time working. He tried to get workman's compensation but couldn't, and that frustrated him.

"The whole thing was taking over his life," Kathy Liffrig said. She thinks he stopped taking his medications.

The summer before Kenneth Liffrig's death, Paul lived in a campground and got along well with others, but not with his family, Kathy Liffrig said. He saw his family as a threat because he feared they would have him committed again, she said.

Liffrig said she tried to get help for her son through social service agencies but got nowhere.

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"That was the most disgusting thing," she said. "Nobody helps you."

Inside

Liffrig's mental state center of hearing -- Page 4B

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