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New York Synagogue Attack: Family, Friends & Attorney Say Suspect Suffered From Mental Health Problems

MONSEY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- More information is being revealed about the New York synagogue attack suspect from his own family.

Attorney Michael Sussman showed CBS2 pages of what he says are incoherent journals found inside the home of 37-year-old Grafton Thomas.

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He says the ramblings reflected his client's deteriorating mental state when he allegedly stabbed five people with a machete inside a Monsey synagogue on Saturday.

"My impression from what I've read and my conversations with him is that there are severe psychiatric issues," attorney Michael Sussman said.

Defense Attorney, Family Of Accused Grafton Thomas Speak Out

Close family and friends say Thomas showed no signs of anti-Semitic behavior, but prosecutors disagreed Monday, filing federal hate crime charges. They say the journals they found contained phrases like "why people mourned for Antisemitism when there is Semitic genocide."

"Grafton has experienced a long history of mental health, and that should be the focus, not terrorism," family pastor Rev. Wendy Paige said.

Family members say Grafton has suffered from major depressive disorder the last 10 years and has been hospitalized before. While his mother declined to speak at a press conference Monday, Paige described the 37-year-old man she knew.

Arrest In Harlem
Grafton Thomas is accused in a violent machete attack on members of a synagogue that left five wounded in Rockland County on Dec. 28, 2019. He was captured near W. 144th Street and Adam Clayton Boulevard on Dec. 29, 2019. (credit: CBS2)

"He has always been a gentle giant with mental illness, and uh, he's very introverted. He doesn't like to be around a lot of people," she said.

The question that still remains is motive. Why did Thomas drive to a town 20 miles away to the home of a rabbi he apparently didn't know? His attorney says his client suffers from hallucinations and may have been called there by a voice.

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Sussman says he's demanding the court to order a mental health evaluation of the suspect as soon as possible.

Family members say Thomas has been prescribed several medications for his conditions over the years and he was hospitalized earlier this year.

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