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Lack of sleep and Red Bull lead to murder and insanity plea

9:15 PM, Feb 4, 2011   |    comments
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Stephen Coffeen
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- He killed his 83-year-old father by smothering him with a pillow, but Stephen Coffeen will not spend a day in prison. His attorneys are blaming lack of sleep and Red Bull for a psychotic episode. Tom Coffeen, Stephen's brother, is not happy.

Tom was in Orlando at Disney when he received a call from his brother, who was watching his elderly father. Tom Coffeen says Stephen told him to come home immediately. When Tom got to his father's home, Stephen wouldn't let him in and said they had to talk. Tom says he started screaming, "You killed him! You killed him!"

According to Tom, Stephen, who lives in California and hadn't seen their father in more than 10 years, started saying, "Dad is evil. Dad is evil."

He says his brother then admitted that he did kill their father and said it was in self defense.

But after Stephen was arrested and charged with second degree murder, his high profile attorney changed from self defense to an insanity defense, saying the man snapped after arriving from California.

The defense said Stephen had a psychotic episode caused by sleep deprivation and he drank a Red Bull, causing him to snap.

Tom says that is absurd. But Pinellas Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett says their psychologist agrees. Now, the defense is saying Stephen is fine and OK now.

And while both the defense and the state agree the insanity defense is appropriate in this case, a former Pinellas prosecutor who successfully convicted several people on first degree murder charges says the plea is a farce.

Meanwhile, Tom says his brother is an intelligent man who is very manipulative. He believes Stephen is telling the psychologists what they want to hear.

If the judge accepts the deal, Stephen Coffeen will go to Chattahoochee mental institution for a minimum of six months. Tom says he will be out on the streets in six months and he believes his brother will come after him to finish the job.

Mike Deeson, 10 News

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