Khouzam pleads to 2nd-degree murder in plea bargain
PENN YAN – Paul Khouzam, 40, the man charged with second-degree murder and other felony charges in connection with the Aug. 6, 2018 attack on his mother, Dr. Magda Khouzam-Daoud –who later died after months in a coma –has accepted a plea bargain to that top count in full satisfaction of all the charges.
Khouzam was indicted Nov. 1, 2018 on charges of second-degree murder (class A violent felony), first-degree burglary (class B violent felony), two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon (class D felony), and aggravated cruelty to animals (class E felony) following a domestic incident Aug. 6, 2018 on Arrowhead Beach Road in the Town of Torrey north of Dresden, where Khouzam allegedly broke into the Seneca Lake home of his widowed mother, killed her dog, and then bludgeoned her with with a hammer and stabbed her in the head, neck, and face with a knife.
In April 2019, Judge Jason L. Cook ordered Khouzam committed to the Rochester Psychiatric Center’s Regional Forensic Unit after two independent psychiatric reports found Khouzam to be “an incapacitated person at this time.” He was committed to the State Commissioner of Mental Health to be held for one year, and the case was suspended, with the $1 million bail/$2 million bond still in place. Somewhat unexpectedly, Khouzam was returned to the custody of the Yates County Jail in October after doctors determined he was fit to proceed.
With court delays caused by Covid, and after examination by both defense and prosecution mental health experts, Khouzam appeared again in Yates County Criminal Court Tuesday, Aug. 17 before Judge Cook, and was led into court wearing shackles. He was represented by attorney Robert Zimmerman, of Shortsville, as assigned counsel. The case has been prosecuted by Yates County District Attorney Todd Casella.
Remaining seated and listening carefully to Judge Cook's questions during allocution, Khouzam responded to each with single word answers of "yes' or "no" in his admissions, pausing only once to confer with Zimmerman when Cook asked if he had intended to cause his mother's death. That answer, after the pause, was also "yes."
Accepting Khouzam's guilty plea to second-degree murder, the court's promised sentence commitment is the full range between the minimum of 15 years to life up to the maximum of 25 years to life in prison. Sentencing has been scheduled for Nov. 30 after the pre-sentence report has been completed.
Khouzam was remanded back to jail without any bail on his conviction as well as his still pending violation of probation in Schuyler County.
Speaking with reporters after court, Zimmerman stated he believed that an insanity defense of his client might have proved successful. "I do believe this was a product of a mental disease or defect," said Zimmerman – but he added the mental health experts differed in their findings so there was not much that could be done.
Speaking of his client's current mental state, Zimmerman said that since Khouzam's return to the Yates County Jail from the Rochester Psychiatric Center, he has been meeting with a mental health social worker regularly and his psychiatric medications have been effective. No incidents of any violence by Khouzam have recorded at the jail, Zimmerman said.
According to Zimmerman, Khouzam had been in contact until recently with his younger brother, Michael, but has been estranged for some time from his sister, Nadine. "They may never forgive him," said Zimmerman.
This conviction is DA Casella's second win in a murder case in the span of just a few months. Kelly (Axtell) Anderson was convicted in a jury trial June 9 for the intentional murder of her 16-month-old son, Ethan Eslick, in 2002. Her sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 21.