GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 4, 2013

'Farmer John's' son cites 'hallucinations' at murder scene

By Julie Manganis
Staff Writer

---- — While being questioned by detectives in the hours after his father’s body was discovered, Stephen Anastasi told them he saw a turtle.

“I just want to check to see if I’m, like, still hallucinating,” Anastasi told the investigators from Danvers and state police on the afternoon of Nov. 12, 2011. “Is that a turtle underneath that thing right there? Did anyone else see a turtle?”

Earlier in the interrogation, Anastasi had said that after finding his father’s body in their kitchen at their Danvers home, he had tried to commit suicide by ingesting heroin, Adderall, Seroquel, methadone, Tylenol PM and penicillin — the final drug because they were the only pills left in the house.

Anastasi, 25, is charged with first-degree murder in the Nov. 11, 2011, bludgeoning and stabbing death of his father — John Anastasi, 60, the well-known, longtime owner of Gloucester’s Farmer John’s market and later of Cape Ann Produce.

Now Anastasi’s lawyer, John Morris, wants a judge to bar prosecutors from using his confession and other statements he made to police because, he argues, Anastasi was still hallucinating, under the influence of drugs, and therefore unable to knowingly and voluntarily waive his right to remain silent.

In a motion filed last week, Morris argues that his client was in no condition to understand the consequences of speaking to police without an attorney. Anastasi said in an affidavit that his vision was still so blurry from the effects of the drugs he had taken that he couldn’t read the waivers he signed.

Following his arrest, he eventually told police that he had struck his father with a hammer, and left him on the kitchen floor when he went out to purchase heroin with an acquaintance. When he returned later that afternoon, he realized his father was still alive, so, he told investigators, he stabbed him.

But first, Anastasi insisted that other people in the house, wearing masks, might have killed his father, and that he hid from them. He told neighbors and police that he thought there were aliens in his home and that explosives had been put into his clothing.

Slowly, he began to acknowledge details, however.

“I just want to try to retrace my steps because I remember — if it was me, when I finally remember, I want the death sentence,” Anastasi told the detectives. “I don’t want to live here anymore knowing that I killed my (expletive) father.”

He told the detectives that his father had been trying to help him kick his heroin habit.

“You have no idea how much he’s been helping me lately,” Anastasi said. “Like all’s he wanted to do is see me get clean, and he was — he didn’t get to see that happen before the day he died.

“I wanted to — I wanted to get clean so that I could start helping him,” Anastasi told the detectives. “I wanted to get clean so that we could have a better relationship. Like, he’s getting old. You know what I mean? And, like, I used to worry about that.

“And now there’s like — this is the most (expletive) up thing I’ve ever been through. I really thought there was aliens in my house,” Anastasi told the detective.

After a break in the interview, Anastasi became more forthcoming.

He told the detectives that he was hallucinating and began swinging at the images.

“I thought he was one of them,” Anastasi said, later saying he was screaming at his father because he thought he was an alien or demon.

“So I hit him until he — I think he was eating. I don’t know. They were all in my kitchen.”

Police, however, pointed out to him that he was clear-headed enough to go to Lawrence with his friend after that to purchase heroin, before returning and stabbing his father when he heard him make a noise.

Tests of Anastasi’s urine taken after his arrest confirmed the presence of drugs in his system, and a psychologist hired by the defense concluded that Anastasi was delusional at the time of the killing due in large part to those drugs.

Prosecutors are expected to file their opposition to the motion before the hearing, which is scheduled for April 16.

Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@gloucestertimes.com, or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.