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At trial of man with ALS, expert says disease nonviolent

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A prosecution expert in the trial of a former Wisconsin sheriff’s deputy with Lou Gehrig’s disease who killed two people testified he has never seen a patient with the disease act violently.

Andrew Steele, 40, has pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease in the August shooting deaths of his wife Ashlee Steele, 39, and her sister, Kacee Tollefsbol, 38, of Lake Elmo, Minn., at the Steele home in Fitchburg.

Dr. Paul Barkhaus, director of the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, program at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, also testified Friday that he saw nothing in Steele’s medical records that would have warranted a referral to a neuropsychologist, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

A defense expert, Dr. Doug Tucker, testified on Wednesday that Steele has a mental disease, namely major neurocognitive disorder due to ALS, which has affected his ability to regulate his behavior and caused him to lack the ability to conform his conduct to the law.

Barkhaus said he was not able to reach conclusions about all of the defense expert’s contentions because he is not a neuropsychologist. But he said the fact that Steele was able to drive a car in traffic and that friends and family did not notice changes in his behavior suggests no deficits in his executive functioning, which governs such things as reasoning and problem solving.

Barkhaus also said that if someone had a neurocognitive disorder that caused him to become violent, he would expect to see more than one instance of it. Nobody has testified ever seeing Steele act violently on any other occasion.

Prosecutors believe that Steele planned the murders, but they have not discussed a motive. Steele claims he does not to remember what happened.

Testimony was expected to resume Monday.

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