Lisa Troemner is accused of killing her boyfriend more than three years ago. She faces a charge of second-degree murder. If convicted, she could face up to life in prison. Vonna Keomanyvong/Naples Daily News


A Marco Island woman accused of killing her boyfriend suffers from psychological issues related to domestic violence and abuse, two defense experts in psychology testified Tuesday.

Lisa Troemner, whose trial started two weeks ago, suffers from battered spouse syndrome, said Dr. David Shapiro, a professor of psychology at Nova Southeastern University, and Dr. Charles Ewing, a forensic psychologist, in testimony to jurors.

Prosecutors say Troemner, 27, fatally stabbed Trevor Smith, 30, in their home on Park Avenue during an argument Dec. 2, 2014.

Shapiro, who has studied domestic violence-related issues as a psychologist, told the jury that he examined witness statements, police records and other evidence in the case and evaluated Troemner, determining that she suffers from battered spouse syndrome.

Battered spouse syndrome, Shapiro said, is a subset of post-traumatic stress disorder, with some of the same symptoms. 

“It’s a syndrome that helps explain why women will get enmeshed in a violent relationship,” Shapiro said. “And why they have such tremendous difficulty getting out of that relationship.”

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In battered spouse syndrome, Shapiro said, an abusive partner tries to control the other person’s behavior and can display “intense jealousy.” The relationship also can encompass both verbal and physical abuse, he said.

“There’s what we call a cycle of violence,” Shapiro said.

The cycle consists of a “tension-building phase,” one or more acute battering incidents and a “drop-off” sometimes described as “loving contrition,” he said.

During the “loving contrition” phase, the abusive partner apologizes for the behavior and says it won’t happen again, Shapiro said.

“The woman who is in that kind of relationship tends to believe the loving contrition part,” he said.

Shapiro said the battered spouse often will blame himself or herself for the abuse and might be reluctant to report the behavior to authorities.

“They don’t want to get this person in trouble,” he said. “They basically love this person.”

When Shapiro evaluated Troemner, he said, there was no evidence she was fabricating or exaggerating any of the alleged abuses.

“There’s absolutely no evidence of faking,” Shapiro testified.

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However, Shapiro said, he had to conduct a personality assessment inventory test twice, because her initial responses showed an invalid test.

Shapiro said he was puzzled by that at first, because it usually indicates the person is “grossly psychotic,” which he said was not the case.

When he went over her responses with her, she told him she thought he was trying to trick her and thus changed her answers deliberately, Shapiro said.

“But once you took that into consideration, then the rest of the testing was totally consistent,” he said.

During cross-examination by the state, Shapiro testified he had done the personality assessment inventory “several hundred times” and had never gotten results like he initially did with Troemner.

But, Shapiro added, “It does not affect the clinical scales at all.”

Shapiro also testified during cross-examination that he didn’t think he ever diagnosed battered spouse syndrome in a nonlegal or nonforensic setting. He said it isn't considered a mental illness.

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Jurors on Tuesday also heard from Dr. Ryan Hall, a psychiatrist who sees patients for PTSD, anxiety disorders and depression. He testified he examined Troemner and determined she suffers from PTSD with symptoms that likely first developed in October or November 2014.

Hall and Ewing both testified they thought Troemner suffers from dependent personality disorder.

“These are people that often need to have a strong figure in their life that kind of makes decisions for them,” Hall said. “That they seek a lot of security from having that strong figure in your life and that they’ll even do things at the detriment to themselves.”

Ewing testified he examined Troemner and the evidence in the case and determined that she was subjected to psychological abuse, including being frequently yelled at by Smith, confined to a closet in the home “on at least 10 occasions” for at least an hour, being chased after, threatened with physical violence and death, and called derogatory names.

“Battered woman syndrome creates in a woman a situation in which she lives in a constant state of fear,” Ewing said.

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