FAIRFIELD — Actions by accused double-murderer Richard R. Calkins are consistent with someone on a bad trip after taking psilocybin mushrooms, a doctor testified Thursday.
Dr. Alex Stalcup, 68, who as a medical student volunteered in 1967 at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic during the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco, said in Solano County Superior Court that for the most part, people using such mushrooms “have a wonderful experience.”
But sometimes users enter a new reality, said Stalcup, an expert witness for the defense in the murder trial for the Nov. 16, 2010, shootings in Vacaville that killed two men: Richard M. Perez, 20, and Cameron S. Silva, 21.
“It is a remarkably altered state of consciousness,” the doctor said. “They go nuts. They go berserk.”
Asked by defense attorney Oscar Bobrow if defendant Calkins has an accurate memory – or any recollection – of what happened that day, the doctor answered that Calkins has memory fragments.
“Most of his memory is a dream,” Stalcup said. “He has the memory that he was in a dream – a bad dream.”
Stalcup, who spoke with Calkins and reviewed police reports about the event, said the defendant had eaten about three mushroom caps and three stems.
The doctor, a graduate of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, recounted his work at “tripper tents” for music concerts and a 16-year-old girl using psychedelics who cut herself on barbed wire but was sure she’d fought with a bear.
“It was crazy,” Stalcup testified. “But her belief of it was totally real.”
Vacaville resident Rita Matcham, 67, the grandmother of shooting victim Perez, left the courtroom as Stalcup was testifying. She said outside the court that the expert testimony is a way to excuse Calkins’ actions and that she did not want to listen to Stalcup concentrate on mushroom use.
Tamara Avellar, 29, also left the courtroom. She described Perez as like a brother to her and said Stalcup is relying on what Calkins told him about events.
“The doctor doesn’t know what’s true,” Avellar said.
Stalcup said after his testimony that Sarah Berkheimer, who was 21 at the time of the shootings and was shot twice and survived, said if it weren’t for the mushrooms, the shootings would not have happened.
The doctor said of his account that for the most part, people using mushrooms have a wonderful experience and that he neither criticized nor supported the drug use. His job is to treat the consequences, Stalcup said.
“I do a lot of work trying to get people not to take drugs,” he said.
Prosecutor Robert Hightower asked Stalcup about fees he is paid. The doctor said he receives $250 an hour to prepare for testimony and the same amount to appear in court.
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