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August 29, 2013

Longtime McGinnis psychiatrist not contacted

Knoxville — Dr. Bruce Sieleni testified this morning in the post-conviction relief hearing of Steven Dean McGinnis that, even though the doctor had treated McGinnis for years, defense attorneys in McGinnis' 2008 murder case never contacted him. 

McGinnis was found guilty in 2009 of the Sept. 21, 2008, murder of Rob Ohl. McGinnis and Ohl knew each other through the VA Medical Centers in Knoxville and Des Moines. They were friends. 

A veteran who served in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, McGinnis suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His defense of PTSD playing a role in Ohl's murder has previously been rejected by the court. 

Though Sieleni had not treated McGinnis, prior to the murder, since 2004, Sieleni had knowledge of McGinnis' mental condition. Sieleni left the VA's employ in February 2006, to work for the Iowa Department of Corrections. When McGinnis entered DOC custody, Sieleni began seeing him again. 

Sieleni describes McGinnis as someone who has greater problems than other patients. 

"He has a significant - a very significant - mood disorder," Sieleni testified. He added that McGinnis has flashbacks. There are times McGinnis loses himself among his surroundings and is unaware of what is going on. 

The court also heard this morning from Scott Gratias, a private investigator hired by McGinnis' defense. According to Gratias, only a short time prior to the beginning of the murder trial, the State struck witness Robin Matrie from its witness list. This made things difficult for the defense, as part of the strategy they had been developing, for a year, was to implicate Matrie in Ohl's murder. 

"I wanted to point the finger at Robins," Gratias said. "I think she played a part in this."

Matrie was a recreation director for the VA prior to the murder. She took the stand this morning as well, and testified that she was friends with McGinnis, and had known him since the 1990s. Because she knew McGinnis prior to the professional relationship developed through the VA, it did not violate the policy regarding fraternization between staff and patients at the time, Matrie testified. 

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