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Paxil defense planned in murder case

Lawyers say drug may have led to slaying

Darrell Kinyon
Darrell Kinyon

PROVO — Lawyers say an American Fork man charged with killing his boss in February may have done so because he was taking the prescription drug Paxil.

That's the argument defense lawyers for Darrell Kinyon, 49, plan to use if the capital murder case goes to trial, Kinyon's attorney, Rhome Zabriskie, said after a hearing Wednesday in 4th District Court.

Judge Lynn Davis granted a prosecution request to continue the hearing until Dec. 22, when Kinyon will either enter a plea or Davis will set a date for a preliminary hearing.

Prosecutors asked for the delay because they are waiting on evidence sent to the state crime lab for testing. Utah County Deputy Prosecutor Mariane O'Bryant would not elaborate on what that evidence is.

"We're working on it. It takes a long time to go through a capital case," she said.

Kinyon is accused of killing his boss, Kent Griffith, after being suspended from his job at the Provo River Water Users Association. The suspension was over material found on Kinyon's computer, Orem police say.

Kinyon went on Feb. 2 to talk to Griffith, 36, about the suspension. During the meeting, Kinyon flew into a rage, damaged a candy machine and left the building, according to police.

While police were searching the neighborhood to find him, Kinyon allegedly returned to the Pleasant Grove office, chased co-workers out of the office and shot Griffith.

He then went into a restroom and shot himself in the head.

Zabriskie agreed to Wednesday's continuance because his team wants more time to explore the possibility that Paxil and other drugs Kinyon was taking for anxiety and depression affected his mental state.

"There is a lot of literature out there to support the claim that Paxil can cause people to act out violently," Zabriskie said.

Zabriskie said he plans to call Ann Tracy, executive director of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness, before Kinyon's next court date and may eventually use her as a witness. Tracy, who runs the advocacy group from her home office in West Jordan, has testified at a dozen criminal cases that antidepressants may cause or contribute to violence, an assertion supported by some mental health experts but disputed by others.

One such case Tracy testified in — that of a Wyoming woman on Paxil who shot her husband but didn't remember anything about the slaying except standing there with a gun — reportedly is in some ways similar to Kinyon's case.

Defense attorneys originally said Kinyon could remember little of the alleged crime because of amnesia that resulted from his self-inflicted gunshot wound. Zabriskie now says Kinyon's memory lapse may have something to do with his use of Paxil.

"We're looking at the potentially adverse effects of Paxil," Zabriskie said. "This is a defense that has been used by attorneys across the country."

Paxil is the subject of a nationwide class-action lawsuit filed this summer charging that the drug's maker, GlaxoSmithKline, "concealed, suppressed and downplayed" severe withdrawal reactions in people trying to get off the drug.

And in March, the Food and Drug Administration issued a Public Health Advisory urging doctors and families to closely monitor adults and children on antidepressants for suicidal thinking, hostility and mania, especially at the beginning of treatment or when doses are changed.

Griffith's father, Kent, who attended Wednesday's hearing, would not comment on Kinyon's mental state at the time of the crime, but he said he is satisfied with the way the prosecution is handling the case.

"We don't have a problem with the delay," he said. "We'd rather they delay it and get it right than be here again in three years."

In addition to capital murder, Kinyon faces charges of sexual exploitation of a minor and aggravated assault, both third-degree felonies, in connection with the case.