Report: Dylann Roof Told Expert He Was a Sociopath, Not Autistic
CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Dylann Roof told his dad during a November prison visit, before he was convicted of gunning down nine people in a church, that he was going to do something to make it worse.
His father asked him what was wrong with him, handed the phone to his mother and walked away. Roof’s mother asked what he’d said to make his father cry before his dad quickly returned and took the phone.
“Buddy, nothing could be any worse than what you’ve already done. You know whatever you’ve done reflects on us as a family. Don’t be a f***ing dumb-a**,” Ben Roof told his son. “I don’t know what you could f***ing do to make it worse, but don’t do it.”
The mysterious exchange was among new details released this week as US District Judge Richard Gergel unsealed 19 documents from Roof’s competency hearings and videos of three prison visits by his family. Together, they help paint a picture of the 23-year-old’s mental state before and after he was imprisoned for the church massacre.
According to a transcript from November, Roof told a psychologist working for his defense team that his death penalty wouldn’t be carried out because he’d “be rescued by white nationalists after they took over the government.”
The transcript was included in a report composed amid Roof’s trial for killing nine parishioners in 2015 at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The report also says Roof was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder “based on the presence of social-communication challenges and atypical behaviors.”
Autism, schizophrenia, sociopathy?
It goes on to say Roof was suffering or had suffered from “psychiatric symptoms that are not explained by autism spectrum disorder, including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, disordered thinking, and psychosis (including delusions of grandeur and somatic delusions).”
Roof’s somatic delusions — which are defined as false beliefs that something is grossly wrong with one’s body — include unfounded complaints of hair loss and thyroid disease, according to reports.
“It is my impression that it is too early to predict his psychiatric trajectory,” Dr. Rachel Loftin wrote in one report, “but his symptoms appear to me to be consistent with the schizophrenia spectrum.”
The confessed white supremacist seemed to take umbrage with any suggestion that he was autistic, according to documents.
On November 17, an autism expert wrote that Roof seemed more concerned with his Wikipedia page and the clothes his lawyers had purchased for him for court than he was with mounting a defense in his death penalty trial.
Roof told the expert he was a sociopath, not autistic, and that autism was for “nerds and losers.” He also said testimony regarding his mental state was irrelevant because he would “be pardoned in four or five years,” documents say.
Roof’s competency hearings were held in November, after a judge halted jury selection in his case to allow time for Roof to undergo evaluations. Roof was ruled competent to stand trial, represent himself and be sentenced. (In January, Roof became the first person to receive the death penalty for a federal hate crime. He pleaded guilty to a slew of state charges last month.)
In addition to the competency hearing documents, Judge Gergel allowed journalists Tuesday to view videos from three prison visits between Roof and his family members. Most of the interactions on the videos ranged from the banal to the bizarre. Common themes were Roof’s commissary account, his cats’ weight and well-being, the whereabouts of a ribbed sweater he had requested for his trial and how his lawyers were “snakes.”
In one discussion on politics Roof told his dad, a Trump supporter, that he wished Sen. Bernie Sanders had won the presidential election. During another visit, he told his father not to read his manifesto — in which he wrote, “I have not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed” — because it’s “the worst thing I have ever written.”
At times, he seemed to be toying with his parents, telling them his brain was deteriorating from syphilis and that he got a honeybun in his prison Christmas stocking.
During a December 18 visit, days after the guilty verdict in his federal trial, his sister Morgan asked if she could watch him get a lethal injection should he receive the death penalty. He responded that he was allowed to invite two people and she could be one of them.
Gergel would not permit the footage to be publicly released, but a CNN reporter was among journalists allowed to watch the videos and take handwritten notes.
‘A very anxious man’
Some of the information about Roof’s mental state was contained in a December document, released in February, that showed defense attorneys sought special accommodations for their client after competency hearings indicated Roof suffered from a range of disorders.
But the documents released this week go deeper and also delve into his childhood, which was marked by normal maladies such as colds, fevers, sore throats and the like.
As a teen, however, Roof visited a family doctor who called him “a very anxious man.”
In 2009, as Roof was entering high school at age 13, his mother took him to Lexington County Community Mental Health Center because he was defying her, using drugs, skipping school and engaging in “oppositional behavior.” His mother told a doctor that at school, Roof’s As had become Fs, according to court documents.
He also experienced anxiety in social situations, with one report saying that he “worries about it all the time” and at one point threatened to run away and kill himself because his mother had made him go to school. He later told his mom the threat was a bluff.
The report suggests Roof self-medicated with drugs and alcohol. He told doctors he had no intention of quitting his use of marijuana, the documents say. Roof was prescribed an antidepressant.
Roof maintains he doesn’t need care
Psychological and medical records from the county jail where he was held after the church massacre show Roof was removed from suicide watch in August 2015, two months after the killings.
He spent most of his time in his room sitting or lying on his cot, only coming out when “he had something to do,” according to jail logs. A jail counselor reported that Roof was “doing well in general” and had stated he didn’t need mental health care.
During his federal trial, Roof requested that the judge reinstate his legal team for the guilt phase of the trial. He asked to represent himself again during sentencing.
“There’s nothing wrong with me psychologically,” Roof told jurors ahead of sentencing. “Anything you heard from my lawyers in the last phase, I ask you to forget it.”