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Originally published Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Haq's mother testifies Jewish Federation shooter "was very sick"

In the weeks leading up to the 2006 shootings at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, Naveed Haq's already fragile mental state began...

Seattle Times staff reporter

In the weeks leading up to the 2006 shootings at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, Naveed Haq's already fragile mental state began to unravel in increasingly dramatic and disturbing ways, his mother testified Wednesday.

He was unusually subdued and depressed, Nahida Haq told a King County Superior Court jury. He didn't shave or change his clothes. He paced the house incessantly, his eyes bulging, she said.

"He was very sick," said a tearful Nahida Haq. "I was scared for him. He had a hollow laugh, a blank face, his body was all changed. I said something bad is going to happen. He doesn't look good to me."

A few days later, Haq forced his way into the federation offices and fatally shot employee Pamela Waechter and wounded five other women on July 28, 2006. Haq, 32, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to one count of aggravated first-degree murder, five counts of attempted first-degree murder and numerous other charges, including malicious harassment — the state's hate-crime law.

If convicted of the murder charge, Haq faces life in prison without parole.

Nahida Haq, the first family member to testify for the defense in Haq's trial, described for the court how her oldest son changed from a normal child with a bright academic future into a mentally ill and troubled young man.

Haq's father and brother are expected to testify today.

According to Nahida Haq, her son had left their Tri-Cities home and gone off to college with a grade-point average of 3.8 and made the dean's list his first year.

But during his second year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., his behavior began to unravel, she said. He became too depressed to concentrate on his studies and returned home for a few months.

He then enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania's accelerated dental program, and while there became convinced that others had control of his body and were making him do things he didn't want to do, she said.

He began whispering on the phone, she said, because he was convinced people were listening in on him.

He sought help from a psychiatrist and began taking mental-health medications.

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When he returned home again, his mother testified, he slept constantly, shaved his head, paced back and forth and acted impulsively.

About a year before the shootings, her son was admitted to a mental-health treatment center for 10 days after his body became stiff and he told her that he was "in a zone" and he was "stuck in the '80s."

At the center, Haq was heavily medicated, Nahida Haq testified. He returned home convinced that the drugs had killed some of his brain cells.

Haq's mother, 54, also recounted a series of jobs he held. None of the dozens of jobs, including stints in a retail store, a gas station and a security company, lasted more than a few months. One, for a telemarketing company, lasted only a few hours, she said.

"He was fired from each and every one," she said, shaking her head.

She testified that over the years her son was able to earn a degree in electrical engineering at the Washington State University campus in the Tri-Cities but was unable to find a job in his field.

The defense questioning of Nahida Haq was apparently aimed at supporting their claim that her son was delusional and legally insane at the time of the shootings.

But under cross-examination by prosecutors, Haq's mother admitted he had showered and shaved the day before the shootings — despite his behavior in the days leading up to July 28, 2006. She said that although she was close to her son, she had no idea he was amassing weapons in the days before the shooting rampage.

According to police and witnesses, Haq, who is of Pakistani descent, made anti-Semitic statements before and during the slayings.

Haq's mother testified Wednesday that she had never heard her son make racist or anti-Semitic statements.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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