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Woman accused in Target stabbings experienced a mental disintegration

May 8, 2010 |  7:58 am

Layla Rosette Trawick could be sweet and charming. She volunteered for causes she believed in, friends and family said, and could be generous almost to a fault.

But anyone who spent time with the 34-year-old woman knew that there was another side to her.

She was convinced in recent months she was the test subject in a mind-control experiment. When she read books, she hallucinated that smaller books were emerging from the text with secret messages for her. She suffered bouts of profound paranoia and delusions.

Last year, hoping to start a new life, she moved from Northern California to Los Angeles.

But on Monday, authorities allege, Trawick entered a Target store in West Hollywood armed with a butcher's knife and a chef's knife. She roamed through the aisles muttering about being bipolar and randomly stabbing people, including a woman holding a baby. Four people were wounded, one critically.

In interviews with The Times since the attack, friends and relatives of Trawick describe her as a woman who suffered mental health problems from childhood. Trawick was in and out of psychiatric wards much of her life, as many as half a dozen times in the last year. But between the flaws of the mental health system and her own paranoia, she slipped through the cracks. Although she felt more stable on medication, those around her said, she was often unable to obtain it or declined to take it.

In the months before Trawick's rampage, her condition was deteriorating. She lived for a time with an ex-boyfriend in his Hollywood apartment, but she had become too destructive. In the weeks leading up to the attack, she was living on the street, and with strangers. Like many suffering from severe mental illness without the prescription drugs she needed, she often used alcohol and drugs to self-medicate.

"There was nobody taking her seriously," said the former boyfriend, Steve, who spoke on the condition that his last name would not be used. Trawick was deeply distrustful of mental health professionals who could help her, he added. "She didn't believe that these people were in the right frame of mind, or have enough power to help her."

Read the full story here.

--Lee Romney, Robert Faturechi and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: LASD