A 15-year-old girl suspected of participating in the abduction of an elderly Kennewick woman has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and being in an abusive relationship, according to testimony from an expert psychiatrist.
Frank Ochberg took the stand Wednesday in Benton County Superior Court to testify in the defense of KateLynn Kenfield, who is on trial for allegedly helping two other teens kidnap an 87-year-old woman from her home last November.
The doctor told the court through a video call that Kenfield may suffer from PTSD and trauma bonding, when a person feels a strong attachment and loyalty to an abuser. However, Ochberg did not fully evaluate Kenfield and was not able to make a clinical diagnosis.
Defense attorney Scott Johnson has argued that Kenfield was not a willing participant in the abduction and felt threatened by the other suspects, Dyllan K. Martin, 16, and Billy J. Underwood, 15. Kenfield and Underwood were dating at the time and there are allegations the relationship was abusive.
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Johnson presented photos Wednesday, the third day of the trial, that showed bruises on Kenfield’s body, which the defense alleges were caused by Underwood. The girl’s mother, Shannon Kenfield, also testified that Underwood abused her daughter.
Ochberg, an expert in PTSD, trauma bonding, Stockholm syndrome and the effects of violence on women, testified that Kenfield could have gone along with the kidnapping plot due to the abuse she claims she suffered.
“People can be bound to the one who traumatizes them,” he said.
Prosecutor Andrew Howell contended Kenfield knew about the plot to kindap Hazel Abel, decided to participate and even acted as a lookout after the woman was put in the trunk of her own car.
Howell reiterated during cross examination that while the doctor testified Kenfield showed symptoms of PTSD and being abused, there was no assessment done to determine if she actually could be diagnosed.
Ochberg reviewed evidence in the case and interviewed Kenfield for about an hour over the phone before identifying her symptoms.
“We do not know one way or another if any of (those diagnoses are) applicable to Ms. Kenfield,” Howell said in court.
Kenfield is being tried as a juvenile for first-degree kidnapping, residential burglary and theft of a vehicle. Martin and Underwood are being tried as adults.
Abel was tackled to the ground after opening her front door, gagged, tied up and stashed in the trunk. She was then driven to Multnomah County, Ore., where she escaped from the trunk in a Walmart parking lot.
The teens were spotted on the store’s surveillance video and later arrested.
Abel is the great-grandmother of Martin and prosecutors allege the teens wanted to steal her car to run away. Law enforcement and prosecutors say Martin and Underwood discussed killing Abel after abducting her.
Kenfield claims she waited on the side of Abel’s house while the boys allegedly broke in and kidnapped the woman.
Both Howell and Johnson gave closing arguments Wednesday, leaving Judge Cameron Mitchell to review evidence before deciding whether Kenfield is guilty.
Testimony, Howell said, showed that Kenfield aided the boys in the kidnapping plot and was clearly an accomplice.
Howell asked Mitchell to give special consideration to testimony from a teen girl who was in juvenile detention with Kenfield last week. The teen testified Kenfield allegedly talked about her involvement, providing specific details about the abduction.
“(Kenfield) absolutely acted as an accomplice to the crimes they committed during the abduction,” he said in his closing argument.
Johnson argued that prosecutors failed to present evidence that Kenfield helped in the abduction. He told the court she felt threatened by Underwood and Martin, and the boys would not let her go for fear she would tell police.
Johnson also called a witness who claimed to have overheard the conversation between Kenfield and the other teen in juvenile detention. The witness testified she didn’t hear Kenfield say anything about her alleged role in the plot.
Mitchell is expected to announce a verdict in the case Friday.