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Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal
David and Kathy Finch did everything they knew to do for their son, friends say.
They also were frightened of him.
David, 60, a computer engineer, and Kathy, 66, a respected physician in private practice, raised their son James Finch in a well-kept brick house in a quiet Northeast Albuquerque neighborhood. They tried to treat his anger and social disorders, and enrolled him in an alternative high school. When he turned to drugs and started threatening them, they tried to get him into rehab programs away from Albuquerque, and finally sought restraining orders against him.
Their years of effort apparently didn’t help.
Early Monday, neighbors awoke to screaming. James, 24, had brutally beaten and stabbed his parents, police said. He was in the backyard screaming, naked and covered in blood.
David was dead.
Kathy was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital clinging to life. She had improved to serious condition by late Wednesday afternoon.
James had been released only three days earlier from the Metropolitan Detention Center after pleading guilty to battering his girlfriend, according to court records. He was released on time served.
Friends said when they heard about the stabbing that they had worried that something like this would happen. When Kathy learned her son was out of jail, she told them she was concerned he would come after her and her husband. And James had threatened to kill her before.
She had filed a restraining order against him in March after he threatened her and slashed through her screen door with a 5-inch knife because she told him he couldn’t stay at her home because of his drug use, according to court documents.
That restraining order is still in effect.
Kathy wrote in the petition for the restraining order that James had been high on methamphetamine for two weeks before the assault.
Her husband had filed a restraining order two years earlier after James punched him in the face and bit his ring finger.
Friends said the Finches tried for years to get their son help before they started filing restraining orders.
“Dave and Kathy, they went above and beyond trying to help him. They sent him to rehab, they got him employment,” said Vance Krier, a co-worker and longtime friend of David. “Everyone from the family pitched in for a rehab up north somewhere.”
James attended Freedom High School, an alternative school for kids who are having difficulty at traditional high schools, according to Rigo Chavez, a spokesman for Albuquerque Public Schools.
Although the extent of James’ mental illness is not clear from police and court documents, James told officers during one incident that he believed he had schizophrenia. David told them James had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and oppositional defiance disorder, and was taking medication.
For a while, it appeared the help was working.
“It looked like he was going to pull through for a little while,” Krier said.
But, in 2008, APS records show, James dropped out of Freedom High School, Chavez said.
Mental health concerns raised
According to hundreds of pages of police and court records, James’ behavior escalated beginning in 2010, when he began to pick up misdemeanor charges.
Those included contributing to the delinquency of a minor after he said he had smoked marijuana with a juvenile and leaving the scene of an accident where officers said he smelled of alcohol.
In November 2012, David told police he was worried about James’ mental state. James was taken by police for a mental health evaluation.
The following year, James pleaded guilty to a petty misdemeanor charge of battering his father.
Later that year, witnesses saw James beating his girlfriend, and he was charged with false imprisonment and battery on a household member. The case dragged through the court system for more than a year and a half and included a mental competency evaluation. On Aug. 20, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and was ordered to serve 244 days at the Metropolitan Detention Center. But he had already been jailed that long awaiting trial, so he was released.
The next day, David told police James had dug a large hole in their backyard, and he thought it was to symbolize his and Kathy’s graves.
James stabbed him to death three days later, police say.
Ryan Martin, who lives directly behind the Finch family, said he was sleeping when his wife woke him up and said someone was screaming in the backyard.
“All I heard was someone yelling, ‘Help me.’ At that point, I thought it was a medical emergency,” Martin said.
Martin said he went outside and looked over his fence, and saw James being arrested by police.
“He was bloody, naked, completely naked. Not one thread on him,” he said.
Extensive efforts to help
After the stabbing, patients came to Adult Health Care, Kathy’s medical office, to ask about her condition and to find out where to send flowers.
She has run the practice for nine years and has many patients she has seen for much longer.
Karen Kinsman said Dr. Finch has been her doctor for decades.
“Having somebody as your physician for 22 years means you develop a trusting relationship with them,” she said. “She always had this way of making you feel like you were the most important person at that moment.”
Kinsman said she was aware of Kathy’s efforts to help her son.
“She and her husband tried so hard to get him whatever he needed in terms of counseling and treatment over the years,” she said. “They tried everything they knew to try.”
Kinsman said the Finches eventually had to stop enabling James.
“They had really tried to stop doing anything to enable his addictions,” she said. “It can be scary when you take those things away from people.”
Krier said co-workers loved David for his dry sense of humor.
“He loved dressing up for Halloween. Last year, he dressed up as one of the tennis stars, in a pink dress, and went out to customer sites like that,” he said. “We might have to all do that costume in his honor this year.”
He said David was uniquely good-natured.
“We were talking about him today and everyone said they never heard him say anything negative,” he said.
Vivian Jones was a longtime friend of both Kathy and David.
“These were very doting, nurturing parents, that’s the way they are,” she said.
She said they had told her about some of James’ mental health problems.
“They indeed did everything you can think of,” Jones said. “He didn’t think he was sick and he didn’t want their help.”