A drifter charged with breaking into a Troy Township business and beating a worker to death suffers from brain damage caused by long-term and chronic drug abuse, his lawyer said Thursday.
Michael Eberle, 42, has a "long history of substance abuse," including the "long and chronic use of bath salts," said attorney Stewart Ferreira during a hearing Thursday morning in Will County court.
Products sold as bath salts had been commonly found in area tobacco shops. The substances could be ingested for a hallucinogenic effect.
Gov. Pat Quinn banned the sale of the synthetic drugs in July, but that was four months before Eberle allegedly launched a one-man crime wave in and around Shorewood.
Eberle allegedly tried and failed to force his way into a home in Shorewood's Saddlebrook Estates subdivision. After a resident scared him off, he stole a pickup truck from a nearby Troy Township farm.
Eberle drove that pickup down the Interstate 55 frontage road to Knauer Industries, a burial vault manufacturer. Once there, police said, he broke into the business' office and happened upon an employee working alone.
Eberle allegedly beat the worker with a crowbar and fire extinguisher, then tangled with another employee who had just shown up to start his day.
Eberle fled but sheriff's deputies found him hiding in the weeds a short time later, police said. The beaten worker, 69-year-old Patrick Shaughnessy, died before an ambulance could make it to the scene.
Eberle was homeless at the time of the killing. Nine days earlier, the woman he had been living with, Karen Trajkovich, obtained a court order to keep him away from her and her home. Trajkovich sought the court order after Eberle alarmed her while allegedly in the throes of a drug-induced delirium.
Trajkovich said in her petition for the order that Eberle "tore apart my entire garage because he thought everything was burning. He broke or threw away or threw water on my shovels, gardening tools, books, food, my bike, skateboards, etc. ... When I asked him to stop, he got agitated and got in my face because I wouldn't believe that everything is burning."
Eberle's psychotic episode was brought on by his "history of substance abuse," Trajkovich claimed.
"Currently I believe he is abusing bath salts that are making him irrational, paranoid and delusional," she wrote in her petition.
Ferreira said he is looking for a neurological forensic psychiatrist to conduct an evaluation of Eberle. Ferreira told Judge Richard Schoenstedt that there are "very few of them," and that they command high fees for their work.
Judge Schoenstedt asked whether the money to pay such a psychiatrist would be coming from the Will County Public Defender's budget or elsewhere. It was not made clear during Thursday's hearing who would be footing the bill.
"This is an ongoing issue of fitness that remains before the court," Ferreira told the judge.
Schoentstedt set a Nov. 7 hearing date to further explore the issue.