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Suspect in fatal Needham stabbing arraigned in hospital room

MILFORD — Two days after checking himself out of a psychiatric hospital, a 24-year-old Needham man stabbed his girlfriend to death and then continued his rampage at a restaurant, where he attacked his mother and father and shouted, “I’m going to kill you all,” according to prosecutors and court documents.

With his hands in metal restraints and a bandage and slashes visible on his wrists, Benjamin E. Walsh closed his eyes and wept as a prosecutor on Monday described the bloody scene where the body of his girlfriend, 20-year-old Olivia Bergstrom, was found Saturday in the apartment they shared.

A not-guilty plea was entered on Walsh’s behalf to charges including murder, assault to murder, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.

Randall K. Power, Walsh’s attorney, said the violence appears to be out of character for Walsh and that his client’s “significant mental issue” appeared to play a major role in the attacks.

“I don’t think tragedy describes what happened — it’s way beyond that,” Power told reporters at Milford Regional Medical Center, after Walsh was arraigned in a hospital bed in the intensive care unit. “His mental health — or lack thereof — is going to be a major issue as this case proceeds in a court of law.”

Power declined to describe his client’s mental health history, but Walsh’s father, Mike Walsh, has said that his son struggled with mental illness and substance use.

Another relative told police that Benjamin Walsh had been in and out of McLean Hospital and had checked himself out of the Belmont psychiatric facility last Thursday, according to court documents. A McLean spokeswoman declined to comment Monday, citing patient privacy laws.

Police in Millis, where Walsh grew up, and Needham, where he had lived with Bergstrom for about six months, have said they had not had any contact with Walsh until Saturday at about 7:20 p.m.

That’s when police were called to Primavera restaurant in Millis, where they found Walsh’s mother wrapped in banquet linens and bleeding from the abdomen. Several men were pinning Walsh to the floor.

Walsh, police said, had gone to the restaurant after killing Bergstrom, and stabbed his mother, Laura, and father, Mike, with a large knife, as they celebrated a family birthday.

Laura Walsh was hospitalized in serious condition. Mike Walsh was treated and released from the hospital for injuries he received as he tried to wrest the knife from his son’s hand. Eventually, Mike Walsh and others managed to wrestle Benjamin Walsh to the floor until police arrived with leg irons.

While being escorted to a police cruiser, Benjamin Walsh swore at officers, and yelled, “I’m going to kill you all,” according to court papers. Police said Walsh also told at least one person at the restaurant, “I’ve killed my girlfriend.”

When police arrived at the third-floor apartment in Needham where Bergstrom and Benjamin Walsh had lived, they found her body jammed behind the front door. She was dressed only in boxer shorts, and had been stabbed more than 20 times, including 13 times in the back.

Police found blood in the kitchen, and on the floors, walls, and stairwell, as well as on the door handle, steering wheel, ignition, and keys of Walsh’s Jeep.

They also recovered three knives, two that were in the Jeep, and one that was wrapped in banquet linens at the restaurant and given to police by Jerry Gaita, Primavera’s owner, who said he had found it on the floor inside.

Bergstrom’s family, of Holliston, released a statement on Monday saying they will do everything in their power to keep her memory alive. The statement described Bergstrom as a beloved granddaughter, daughter, sister, niece, and friend, who loved her family and adored animals, particularly horses and her dog, Scarlett.

“Devastated does not even begin to describe how we feel about losing our Olivia,” Paul Bergstrom, Olivia’s grandfather, said in the statement released by the Norfolk District Attorney’s Office. “Olivia was a smart, vibrant, beautiful young woman with a bright future ahead of her . . . Our hearts are broken at the thought of Olivia not being in our lives, taken from us and her future in a way we cannot comprehend.”

Cristela Guerra and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


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