Doctor: Double-murder defendant was on bad mushroom trip

By From page A3 | May 23, 2014

Richard R. Calkins

Richard R. Calkins

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.

Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or [email protected]

Ryan McCarthy


Discussion | 6 comments

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  • George EckhartMay 23, 2014 - 6:12 am

    Oh. Well...that's certainly a mitigating circumstance.

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  • GemmaMay 23, 2014 - 6:44 am

    Fact-he was on Mushrooms when he committed the murders and attempted murder. The Dr talking about and explaining what happens when you ingest mushrooms imo, is NOT out of line, or trying to make excuses for the defendants behavior. It's like saying "yes, he downed 24 beers and 8 shots of vodka before he got in the car, and smashed head on into the van of teens going to church." In no way shape or form do I feel an explanation of what he did is trying to excuse his behavior, or give him leniency. I feel like the Dr is simply painting a picture of what happened that led up to the shootings. Let's not act like the victims were NOT ingesting mushrooms right along with the defendant. They all ingested the shrooms. Calkins simply had a "bad trip" while his friends didn't. I would be saying the exact same thing if one of the victims was instead the defendant. It happened, two people died, and I believe he will be punished accordingly.His friends are dead, at his hands. He will have to live with that for the rest of his life, but that's not punishment for the crime. In the 90s in high school, my health teacher told us a story about someone on acid. He also said that a "bad trip" can come back at any time, even years after you've done the acid. I don't know if that's true or not, but I've remembered it for over 20 years. I wonder if shrooms are the same way? Can a "bad trip" resurface without warning?

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  • Skeptic ScroogeMay 23, 2014 - 7:37 am

    You think the people that were shot didn't have a bad trip? Eat shrooms, let me shoot you, and then tell me you are having a good trip.

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  • IrritatedMay 23, 2014 - 5:27 pm

    Facts are no one actually seen the murderer take the mushrooms and when tested at the hospital for all drugs he was negative for all things except "thc" ( marajana ) .Doctor Stalcup also has written previous papers based off falsified information that he had to retract and is not in fact a mushroom specialist also during the lunch brake Stalcup was seen & heard coaching the defense attorney on what to ask him further proceeding the trile not a creditable testimony if you ask me it's misleading to the family's and friends who are looking for REAL FACTS not lies and accusations the defense has offered , how manny more non factors will they call to testify ...The only BAD TRIP. Mr. Richard Calkins will have will be to his lil jail cell for life ...

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  • MattMay 23, 2014 - 8:21 am

    The fact that he grabbed a gun and started shooting just says somewhere in his subconscious he has some demons. It's not like he was possessed, he was under the influence of drugs. And while he may not have been able to decipher good choices from bad choices, something inside his head said he should shoot the people around him. The kids got some demons and what he did was horrible, he's going to spend a lot of years in prison thinking about what he did.

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  • unknownMay 24, 2014 - 5:29 pm

    that appartment complex is haunted look up how many people have died or killed them selfs in that complex

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