General Crime

Diane Sydenham Found Not Guilty of Murder of James Durkin by Reason of Insanity

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A judge has deemed an Albany woman not guilty by reason of insanity even after the woman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for fatally stabbing her elderly companion in his Kensington home, a prosecutor said.

Diane Sydenham, 58, entered the plea in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez on Friday in connection with the August 2012 stabbing that left 81-year-old retired psychology professor James Durkin dead. Judge Terri Mockler’s ruling Friday means Sydenham will avoid prison and instead live out the rest of her life in a state mental hospital.

Deputy District Attorney Mary Knox said there was “no rational motive” for the killing and that the defendant and Durkin had a “complicated relationship.” Police responded to the victim’s home in the 600 block of Coventry Road in Kensington for a welfare check on Aug. 13, 2012 where he was found dead with a knife still sticking out of his chest. The following day, officers arrested Sydenham at her Albany home in connection with the slaying. She was incarcerated in county jail in Martinez and charged with murder.

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