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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 15:08 GMT
Man shot girlfriend in 'word rage'

A Texas man shot his girlfriend three times to prevent her from saying out loud the words "New Jersey".

"I had seen that word at my mom's house, and then Barbara said what she said (and) I just snapped," Thomas Ray Mitchell, 54, was quoted by the Houston Chronicle as saying before the start of the court hearing in Galveston, Texas.

Mr Mitchell did not claim insanity as a defence, but his relatives testified that he usually got inexplicably angry and violent when he hears certain words, including "New Jersey", "Snickers", "Mars" and "Wisconsin".

It took the jury less than two hours to convict Mr Mitchell of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for shooting Barbara Jenkins outside his flat in Texas City in 1999.

Mr Mitchell, who has a history of psychiatric problems but no criminal record, now faces up to 20 years in jail.

'Flash cards'

During the pre-trial hearing Mr Mitchell became enraged after seeing a flash card bearing the word "Snickers", and witnesses had to use flash cards to avoid speaking certain words aloud.

However, he did not react when "New Jersey" was mentioned twice on the first day of hearing, and was later seen putting his fingers in his ears.

Prosecutor Mo Ibrahim said Miss Jenkins had died recently.

He did not give any details about her death, but said it was not related to the shooting.

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