Image: Belgian newspapers
Kristof Van Accom  /  EPA
Belgian newspapers show pictures of Kim de Gelder, a 20-year-old suspected of slashing two babies and a staff member to death at a day care center.
updated 1/27/2009 9:36:24 AM ET 2009-01-27T14:36:24

The 20-year-old suspected of slashing two babies and a staff member to death at a day care center last week was troubled by depression as a teenager and at one point heard voices in his head, his defense lawyer said Tuesday.

Lawyer Jaak Haentjens said his client, Kim de Gelder, understood he did something "inhuman" but remained aloof and emotionless during a short session at court where he was remanded in custody.

Even if De Gelder remained vague about the killings Friday at the nursery in Dendermonde, he denied fatally stabbing a 73-year-old woman in a similar attack the week before, Haentjens said.

'Remains a mystery'
Authorities are still investigating the motive for Friday's attack, which also left 10 other young children and two adults wounded .

"It remains a mystery," Haentjens said. "I want to know why he did it. I am looking for the truth, whatever the truth may be."

Haentjens said that, even though his client "obviously understands that he did something which is inhuman," he later said that De Gelder had no specific memories of what happened in the day care center.

Investigators say they have evidence De Gelder was planning to attack two more nurseries .

The thin and pale De Gelder, who was arrested shortly after the attack on the day care center, refused to speak or eat for three days, but finally opened up before his lawyer.

So far, De Gelder faces three murder charges for the killings of a 6-month-old boy, a 9-month-old girl and a 54-year-old care giver and 12 attempted murder charges for the 10 injured children and two workers, some of whom are still recovering from surgery needed after the attack.

Troubled youth
Haentjens also said De Gelder had a troubled youth.

"When he was 15-16, he had an, apparently serious, depression," he said. At 18, he was considered for "a forced entry into psychiatry which, for reasons unclear, did not happen."

Haentjens said an investigation had shown that "at a certain point, he spoke of certain voices in his head."

"We have to accept that, in our society, there can be people who can do things, driven by voices, forces, which they do not realize and which they cannot control," he said.

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