California man to be charged in grisly slaying of friend after taking psychedelic mushrooms

CRESCENT CITY, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California man will be charged with murder for allegedly cutting his friend's heart from his chest and tearing off his face in a gruesome killing that the man's attorney blamed on a psychotic episode brought on by hallucinogenic mushrooms he was taking.

A judge's ruling last week cleared the way for Jarrod Wyatt, 26, of Klamath, to be arraigned Friday on charges of murder, aggravated mayhem and torture in the killing of Taylor Powell, 21, of Crescent City.

Del Norte County Sheriff's Deputy Elwood Lee testified that he arrived at the scene in March to find the Wyatt naked and covered head to toe in dried blood. The body on the couch next to Wyatt had an 18-inch incision in the chest and most of its face removed, Lee said.

"I killed him," Lee said Wyatt told him.

Wyatt said he and Powell practiced mixed martial arts together, Lee said.

Powell's death certificate listed his cause of death as blood loss due to having his heart removed while he was still alive.

Defense attorney James Fallman said his client had a psychotic episode and believed that Powell was possessed by the devil.

"My client was trying to silence the devil," Fallman said. "I think he was having a psychotic fit based on the mushrooms he had."

Witnesses testifying at a preliminary hearing last week said the victim and suspect became convinced that a tidal wave was coming, heralding the end of the world and the final struggle between God and Satan.

Wyatt's ex-girlfriend, Billy Jo Bailey, and another man were both present for parts of the evening Powell was killed, but investigators said their memories were clouded because they, too, had taken pyschedelic mushrooms.

Bailey said she thought she heard Wyatt and Powell wrestling in the kitchen but realized something had happened when she saw Wyatt curled up on the floor and Powell on the couch.

In an attempt to get the charges against Wyatt lowered, his attorney tried to argue that Wyatt believed Powell was threatening Bailey and overreacted trying to defend her.

Del Norte County Superior Court Judge William Follett ruled prosecutors had enough evidence to try Wyatt for murder.

(This version CORRECTS by omitting reference to tsunami vulnerability.)