RIVERHEAD, N.Y. – Relatives of a man accused of killing six people in Texas and Pennsylvania apologized to their families Monday, said the suspect had psychological problems and suggested a rattlesnake bite may have set him off.
"We feel it's a psychological stupor he was in," an uncle, Ed Nelson, said outside court before a judge ordered Paul Devoe III extradited to Texas. "He couldn't wake up from a bad dream."
"Our hearts go out to the families, but I am going to stick by my brother," said Steven Devoe, who accompanied his mother and uncle to court. "He never got the psychological help he needs. He's been in and out of jails his whole life."
Devoe, 44, was arrested last month after deputy U.S. marshals tracked him to a friend's house on eastern Long Island. He is wanted in Texas for the killings of an ex-girlfriend and four others in late August; all four were shot in the head.
Authorities in Pennsylvania also have charged him with killing a woman so he could steal her car and continue his journey from Texas to New York.
Devoe moved to Texas several years ago after spending much of his life on Long Island, authorities said.
Nelson said his nephew was bitten by a rattlesnake just days before the killing spree began and suggested a reaction to the medication he was prescribed for the snake bite, along with alcohol, sparked some type of psychological condition that led to the killings.
"I think a jury will summarily dismiss that defense," Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.
Snake bites vary in strength, but common effects include nausea and vomiting, heavy breathing, disturbed vision, increased salivation and sweating, and numbness or tingling around limbs and the face, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC summary does not mention psychological effects.
Devoe's mother, Diana O'Connell, said her son called during his drive from Texas to New York, saying, "Mom, I'm in trouble. I'm on the run."
"He was not in a right mind," said O'Connell, who said her son called her several times and made similar calls to his sister.
Devoe had contested his extradition, but his court-appointed attorney said Monday his client was resigned to returning to Texas.
"He had time to think this over," said the attorney, Edward Vitali.