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Jury rules murderer was sane when he killed retired Atherton arborist in her Menlo Park home

Francis Wolke's insanity defense rejected in Redwood City trial
Francis Wolke.

The jury in the trial of Francis Wolke ruled that he was sane when he murdered Kathy Hughes Anderson in her Menlo Park home in 2018.

The insanity phase of the trial concluded on Wednesday, March 8, in San Mateo County Court in Redwood City, and the jury handed down its ruling later that afternoon.

Kathy Hughes Anderson, the longtime arborist for the town of Atherton, at Holbrook-Palmer Park. Retired and living in Menlo Park, Hughes Anderson was found stabbed to death in her Valparaiso Avenue home in December 2018. Almanac file photo.

Defense lawyers argue that 30-year-old Francis Wolke, found guilty of first-degree murder last week, should be found not guilty by reason of insanity because he believed he had to commit cannibalism in order to join the "1%" and stay young forever.

The jury heard from psychiatric professionals for both the defense and the prosecution who testified that Wolke said he wanted to join an elite group of wealthy people whom he believed killed humans and ate their flesh to become “protein harvesters” and that he, too, would enjoy wealth and eternal youth after consuming human stem cells.

After Wolke used several methods to brutally attack and kill Hughes Anderson in December 2018, court records say he went upstairs and fell asleep in her guest bedroom.

Wolke, who had a history of making misogynistic statements, according to a former friend who testified in the murder trial, said that he would not have committed the crime if he had found a man or a couple inside the home. He had no known previous connection to Hughes Anderson, 62, a retired widow who for many years worked as Atherton's town arborist.

Wolke, according to court testimony, had a history of heavy methamphetamine use, but did not test positive for any drugs at the time of the murder. He was experiencing psychosis in the form of auditory hallucinations while on the bus ride from his family's home Cincinnati to the Bay Area, with voices telling him that he had to commit sins to join the 1%, according to defense attorney Connie O'Brien.

Despite Wolke's hallucinations, the prosecution argued that Wolke had an understanding of the morals surrounding murder and that he was aware of his actions as he committed the killing. Dr. George Wilkinson, a forensic psychiatrist and expert witness for the prosecution, testified that Wolke understood his actions.

"He was well aware of what he was doing, in fact, it would have been necessary to fulfill the delusions," Wilkinson said.

Wolke's sentencing is set for April 5 at 9 a.m.

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