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Abraham Duarte-Gonzalez, 20, of Pittsburg, is suspected of stabbing his roommate to death during an argument Wednesday night, Feb. 29, 2012. (Pittsburg Police Department)

MARTINEZ -- Abraham Duarte-Gonzalez was under the delusion that one of his roommates was trying to curse him with witchcraft when he stabbed her to death nearly two years ago, a medical expert testified Monday on the first day of the sanity phase of the 22-year-old man's murder trial.

Last week, in the trial's guilt phase, a jury convicted Duarte-Gonzalez of second-degree murder in the Feb. 29, 2012, death of Marisol Flores in the Pittsburg house where they both rented rooms. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Dr. Jessica Ferranti, an expert in forensic psychiatry testifying for the defense, told a jury that Duarte-Gonzalez was legally insane at the time of the killing.

Abraham Duarte Gonzalez, 20, of Pittsburg, is suspected of stabbing his roommate to death during an argument Wednesday night, Feb. 29, 2012. (Courtesy of
Abraham Duarte Gonzalez, 20, of Pittsburg, is suspected of stabbing his roommate to death during an argument Wednesday night, Feb. 29, 2012. (Courtesy of Pittsburg police)

"In my opinion, there was a major (mental) illness present, and that illness is schizophrenia," Ferranti said.

Ferranti described a "bizarre psychosis" in which Duarte-Gonzalez heard voices, believed Flores was practicing "black magic" against him, and thought police would "put a bullet in my brain" if he tried to return to his native Mexico.

Those delusions led to physical manifestations, Ferranti testified, such as chest pains and a constricted throat.

"He felt he was having bodily sensations and that he would imminently die," Ferranti said in response to direct examination by defense attorney Ellen McDonnell. "A voice told him to kill his roommate, and all the suffering would go away."

During Ferranti's testimony, Duarte-Gonzalez, who received Spanish translation through an earpiece, fidgeted in his chair, occasionally rocking back and forth.

Deputy district attorney Lynn Uilkema referenced several statements Duarte-Gonzalez made to Ferranti during her interview with him in August 2013 -- that he hallucinated that he was bleeding into the toilet, that police, doctors and Christians were trying to kill him -- and asked Ferranti whether she was the first person to whom Duarte-Gonzalez had made these remarks.

"I believe so," Ferranti said.

"Is it true that schizophrenics can look out for their own self-interests and that they can exaggerate?" Uilkema asked.

"Yes," Ferranti said.

The trial continues Tuesday.