Mother overdosed weeks before alleged murder
A young Christchurch mother took an overdose of prescribed medication less than three weeks before the Crown alleges she was murdered by a former boyfriend.
Alexsis Maria Tovizi, 21, died in December 2010 at her Stanmore Rd, Linwood, home.
Her ex-boyfriend, 24-year-old Nikki Roper, told police her death occurred during a suicide attempt while he was at her house.
The Crown alleges that Roper had a propensity for violence and strangulation and killed Tovizi by putting her in a carotid, or sleeper, hold, and then possibly drowning her in a pot of water.
Roper denies the charge of murder, unlawfully taking her car, stealing her laptop computer and five charges of dishonestly using her bankcard.
The trial began yesterday before Justice Forrest Miller and a jury in the High Court in Christchurch.
Tovizi's mental state and drinking has become an issue at Roper's trial.
Psychiatric nurse Bryan Geer gave evidence of Tovizi's last contact with the Psychiatric Emergency Service, which began on November 19, 2010, after she texted her former partner to say what she had done.
He had passed the message to her mother, who had called an ambulance.
Tovizi had been unco-operative with ambulance staff, and police had taken her to Christchurch Hospital.
Geer said she told him she had drunk five bottles of beer and had taken four or five of her prescribed anti-depressant pills.
He described her as speaking clearly and coherently, but she said she was stressed by having to move house, having to give evidence in a pending court case and by her studies for a social work diploma.
She described the incident as "recreational overuse".
"She said she hadn't taken an intentional overdose. She said she had overused her prescribed medication in order to get a cruisy feeling while drinking."
He said there was nothing to indicate depression or anxiety symptoms of concern.
She had had two previous overdoses involving a combination of alcohol and drugs. She had self-harmed by cutting herself when she was at high school.
She would drink beer to the point of intoxication a couple of times a month, and she had stopped using cannabis and herbal highs.
She had been in a youth mental health unit at the age of 17, when she had been treated for alcohol abuse, anti-social behaviour and low mood.
He said her studies and other factors in her life indicated "positive forward thinking".That helped to form the assessment that she was a low to moderate risk of self-harm or suicide.
"It was my impression that she was a reasonably chaotic young woman with a history of dysfunctional relationships and alcohol abuse,'' he said.
''She struggled to regulate her emotions, which became very intense at times."
She returned to the Psychiatric Emergency Service the next day, as required, but left without being seen.
When she was contacted by phone, she said she had become tired of waiting and frustrated that she had been required to go back because she had taken four tablets. She denied that it had been a suicide attempt.
Geer said he had spent about 90 minutes with her on November 19. It was her last contact with the service.
He was cross-examined by defence counsel Simon Shamy about an entry on her psychiatric file, from when she was 17, that reported "significant alcohol dependence", involving sometimes 20 standard drinks a day.
"She would spend all day every day intoxicated if she could," the medical note stated.
Tovizi's grandmother, Eileen Tovizi, gave evidence of seeing her in late November when she told of her plans to get engaged.
A previous boyfriend, Marcus David Watts, told of being with Alexsis Tovizi outside Cowles Stadium on October 16, 2010, when Roper approached them.
He said Roper had punched her, put his hands to her throat and tried to strangle her, and then pushed her away.
Watts called for help and the police arrived.
He gave evidence at the trial where Roper was jailed for that assault.
Cross-examined by Shamy, he agreed that Tovizi was a "party girl" who would drink every day if she could. He had seen her drink herself unconscious about 12 times.
Tovizi's boyfriend at the time of her death, Daniel Ross Edwards, told the court of them writing to each other while he was serving a jail sentence, and then planning to get married after he was released from prison in August 2010.
He told of her contact with Roper.
"She told me she didn't want to be with him. She wanted to be with me, forever."
He was contacted by Roper, who said that no matter what happened, he would get her back.
The couple fought early on December 5, 2010, and he went out for the day.
When he was at his address, under the terms of his prison-release curfew, that night, he got a text from Roper saying: "I'm with Alexsis now and have been all day."