Lawyer Defends Accused Ex-Doctor

Wednesday, August 30th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MORRISTOWN, N.J. (AP) — A onetime prominent urologist accused of murdering her parents is distraught and unable to communicate fully, her attorney said.

Idella Kathleen Hagen shuffled into a Morris County courtroom for an initial appearance Tuesday, her frail frame hunched over, walking slowly in leg shackles as she looked toward the ground. She said nothing in court and only nodded when attorney Gerard Hanlon patted her on the back before she returned to jail.

Hagen, 54, was arrested Saturday and charged with smothering her parents, 92-year-old Idella Hagen and 86-year-old James Hagen, in their twin beds at their ramshackle Chatham home.

Hanlon said he met with Hagen, who was the first woman to head a urology division at a U.S. medical school but more recently has managed a hotel, for about two hours on Monday. Police said she frequently lapsed into silence, was confused and didn't make any remarks that showed she was aware her parents were dead.

``She was confused, and she was distraught and was unable to fully communicate with me,'' Hanlon said.

Prosecutors say she stayed with the bodies for several days before calling police. At Tuesday's hearing, Superior Court Judge N. Peter Conforti said the Hagens had died between Aug. 12 and Aug. 26.

Prosecutors have not said whether Hagen confessed to killing her parents or speculated on a motive.

Hanlon said a friend of Hagen's told him that the doctor had been depressed recently over a recent divorce. Hagen told him she had lost more than 20 pounds recently and had not slept ``except for minutes at a time'' in recent weeks.

``Obviously, there's a state-of-mind issue here that's huge. Something was wrong,'' Hanlon said.

Hanlon declined to ask for a reduction in Hagen's $2.5 million bail on Tuesday because the doctor has not yet had a mental health evaluation. Conforti scheduled another hearing for Sept. 5.

Hagen, a Harvard Medical School graduate, was the first woman to serve a urology residency at prestigious Massachusetts General Hospital in the 1970s, and in 1982 was appointed to head the urology division at Rutgers' Medical School in New Brunswick, becoming the first woman to head that division at an American medical school. The school is now called Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

But in 1987 she went to part-time status and in 1992 took an unpaid leave from the job, officials said said. School records do not list a reason for the leave.

Prosecutors say she went to the U.S. Virgin Islands and managed a hotel with her then-husband that has since gone out of business. She moved in with her parents in July, police said.