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‘Audio hallucinations’, ‘psychological symptoms’ crop up in Pretoria accused’s US animal tranquiliser death case

‘Audio hallucinations’, ‘psychological symptoms’ crop up in Pretoria accused’s US animal tranquiliser death case
Amanda Hovanec, Anita Green and Anthony Theodorou are facing criminal charges in Auglaize County, Ohio. (Photo: Supplied)

Anthony Theodorou, of Pretoria, wants to suppress statements he made to US cops who questioned him about a death there. This while it’s been found he allegedly has a ‘unique susceptibility to coercive interrogation tactics’ and believes he has a ‘special ability’.

A South African man, accused in a US death case involving an animal tranquiliser, appears “to experience auditory hallucinations in which he hears voices coming from outside his head”.

This is contained in an expert report supporting Anthony Theodorou’s request to suppress statements he made to law enforcement officers who questioned him in the US.

Daily Maverick previously reported that in February 2022 an animal tranquilliser sourced from a South African vet was sent from an address in Pretoria to a home in Ohio in the US.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Pretoria man faces charges in US for ‘lethal animal tranquilliser’ death case

Known as M99, the strictly regulated tranquiliser, which poachers use on animals like rhinos, was allegedly administered to a security engineering officer with the US Department of State, Timothy Hovanec, in April 2022.

He died.

Timothy Hovanec

Victim Timothy Hovanec. (Photo: Supplied)

Custody issues 

Daily Maverick had reported that Timothy Hovanec may have been targeted due to a custody battle.

Theodorou and two women from the US, Amanda Hovanec, who in 2020 initiated divorce proceedings against Timothy who she was married to and had children with, and her mother Anita Green, were charged in the case.

While Theodorou and Amanda Hovanec were accused of the importation of a controlled substance and conspiracy with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, Green was charged with being an accessory after the fact.

In a May 2022 statement Andrew Eilerman, a Special Agent with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), had alleged that Amanda Hovanec said that “she received the drug in the mail approximately one month before she killed TH and that Anthony Theodorou shipped the drug from South Africa to Amanda”.

TH was an apparent reference to Timothy Hovanec.

It was previously reported that Theodorou, Amanda Hovanec and Green pleaded not guilty, but Daily Maverick understands Green may have since changed her plea relating to a count on the indictment.

A trial is expected to proceed for the other two next year.

FBI questioning

Court papers dated this month — November 2023 — point to how certain aspects of the case, being heard in the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, are shaping up.

The papers, which deal with the state wanting certain documents relating to Theodorou, said that an FBI agent who previously interviewed Theodorou had advised him of his Miranda rights, which basically outlines one’s rights in such a situation, before he was questioned.

In July this year Theodorou “filed a motion to suppress all statements he made to law enforcement officers during his questioning”.

Expert reports, including from one Dr Bruce Frumkin, backed Theodorou’s submission.

The court papers said his counsel said the expert reports “cast doubt on the validity of” his Miranda waiver and detailed his “unique susceptibility to coercive interrogation tactics”.

Parts of Frumkin’s report were referenced.

‘Don’t do it’

It said when Theodorou was questioned, he “endorsed symptoms indicative of marginal reality testing.”

Another part of Frumkin’s report said: “He appears to experience auditory hallucinations in which he hears voices coming from outside his head. He said that prior to his proposal to [his ex-wife], a voice told him ‘Don’t do it.’

“Prior to this, at age 12 while home alone, he heard running footsteps in the house and outside at the security gate. He was frightened enough to call his father and to walk downstairs with a baseball bat. He said he saw a ‘white feather’ in the hallway but saw no one in the home. The house was ‘locked solid.’”

The report said Theodorou sometimes heard whispered chanting, that escalated so that it became loud, in Greek.

“When asked about having any ‘special power’, he said when he speaks people are more prone to listen to him than others because his accent ‘calms them down’.

“He says he helps people in jail because of this. He said he believes this is a special ability only he can do.”

Theodorou, it was found, “demonstrates some features of a Dependent Personality Disorder”.

Cop bribes in SA

The court papers, referring to Frumkin’s report, said the real issue that needed focus was what Theodorou understood about his rights when law enforcement officers administered them.

While video footage of that time showed Theodorou appeared calm, it was found he was probably anxious, and this impacted his understanding.

“Second, although South Africa law has the equivalent of Miranda warnings for those being questioned by the South African Police Service, in practice many interrogations involve police brutality, including torture and assault,” the court papers, relating to Frumkin’s report, said.

“In South Africa, it is not unusual that charges or arrests can go away if one bribes officers… Throughout the interrogation, Mr Theodorou asks law enforcement what can be done for him to facilitate him being able to fly home the following week.”

The court ordered Theodorou to provide the state with documents including a radiology report relating to a car accident and a list itemising the contents of a file of Frumkin’s.

This would have to be done by 20 November. DM

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