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Shooting suspect said to be abusive

MEDIA, Pa. -- Sylvia Seegrist was rambling and abusive in a phone call to her mother shortly before she allegedly killed three people and wounded seven others in a shopping mall shooting rampage, her mother testified Saturday.

'At the first moment her voice sounded a little bit lighter and ... I was hopeful,' Ruth Seegrist said of the telephone call from her daughter. 'But then she began to ramble again. I said, 'Sylvia, you need rest. You need medication. Commit yourself.''

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But Seegrist said her daughter cursed her and replied: 'You have no right to interfere with my life. ... Don't ever talk to me about medication again and hospitalizations.'

Seegrist, 25, of Crum Lynne, is on trial in Delaware Count Common Pleas Court on three counts of murder and seven counts of attempted murder in connection with the shooting rampage Oct. 30 at Springfield Mall in suburban Philadelphia.

Witnesses testified earlier this week that Seegrist, clad in combat fatigues and black boots, fired a semi-automatic rifle randomly at Halloween shoppers in the mall, where some workers knew her as 'Ms. Rambo.'

Seegrist, dressed in yellow slacks and a white jacket, watched the jury and witness stand unemotionally as her mother completed two days of testimony. Her only reaction to testimony during the trial was a giggle while police read accounts of her odd behavior.

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Ruth Seegrist, who said Friday that Sylvia had been sexually molested by her paternal grandfather when she was 8 years old, also outlined her daughter's history of mental commitments, beginning in 1976 when she was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. She was repeatedly hospitalized after that, including once when she stabbed a counselor in 1982.

Seegrist said her daughter was thrilled when she was accepted into the U.S. Army in 1984, but became depressed by her treatment at the hands of the drill sergeant and returned home 'defeated' when the Army released her in 1985.

She said her erratic behavior escalated, and she began wearing combat fatigues and T-shirts, vandalizing property with spray paint, studying international affairs and the Russian language.

Seegrist said her daughter also became preoccupied with the world hunger and the plight of children and considered having herself sterilized one month before the shooting rampage.

She became increasingly violent and threatened to kill her mother and father, and herself, Ruth Seegrist testified.

'She said to me, 'Mommy, don't you ever wish I were dead or never born. I caused you and daddy so much trouble and I love you and daddy so much. Tell me the truth. Don't you sometimes think how much better off you would be without me,'' her mother said.

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Defense attorneys have said they would show that Seegrist, who was voluntarily and involuntarily hospitalized 12 times, was legally insane during the time of the shootings.

But Assistant District Attorney William Ryan said he planned to prove that Seegrist, despite a history of mental illness, planned the assault and was aware of her actions.

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