GALLUP — A forensic psychologist called by the defense at John Mayes' murder trail said his mental health issues indicate the account he gave at his preliminary hearing -- when he said he was defending himself from a sexual assault -- is a believable explanation of the events that left Dr. James Nordstrom dead in his Farmington home.

John Mayes, 20, is on trial in Gallup. He is charged with an open count of murder and other felonies in connection to Nordstrom's bludgeoning death on June 9, 2011.

Mayes' trial started last week and the prosecution finished making its case that Mayes intended to rob Nordstrom's house and hid before attacking the doctor.

Mayes' attorneys started presenting their case on Tuesday. They argued that Mayes was acting in self defense when Nordstrom made an unwanted sexual advance.

Carol Mayes, John Mayes' adoptive mother, took the stand Tuesday morning.

Carol Mayes said her and her husband, Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes, spent 40 days and nights in the Ukraine in 1998 as part of the adoption process. She said John Mayes was a five year old the size of a two year old when he was adopted.

Maxann Schwartz, a forensic psychologist testifying for the defense, said John Mayes and his sister were placed in the orphanage because Ukrainian police terminated John Mayes' biological mother's parental rights and removed her children from their filthy, cold home where they were malnourished and possibly abused -- physically or sexually. Her analysis was based on a review of Ukrainian court records.

Carol Mayes was emotional on the witness stand and fought back tears throughout her testimony. The jury was ordered out of the courtroom twice so the attorneys could argue about what she could and couldn't say in front of them.

"This has nothing to do with my homicide case," Chief Deputy District Attorney Brent Capshaw said in court. "They are trying to do a long sad tear-jerker story. And it is. But it's not part of this case."

Carol Mayes said John Mayes was terrified of being hungry as a child, and that she would put crackers in his pockets to keep him calm. As he grew older, she said he would start crying when presented with a big plate of food on special occasions, like Christmas dinner.

Carol Mayes said John Mayes never really attached to anyone in the family as a child.

"He loves us unconditionally to the best of his ability, but it's not the same," she said. "I don't have words for it."

Gary White, John Mayes' former psychiatrist, said he diagnosed Mayes with Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD, months prior to Nordstrom's death. White said the trauma Mayes experienced in the Ukraine caused him to develop the disorder, which happens to children who suffer trauma or neglect before they are five years old.

The disorder caused John Mayes to avoid relationships for his entire life, White said. It also causes him to be eager to please people and keep them comfortable, thus ensuring his safety, White said. He said he has treated between 30 and 35 children who suffer from RAD.

"Any of those prior clients kill anybody?" Capshaw asked during cross examination. White said, "No."

Carol Mayes said John Mayes would do anything to avoid confrontation, including make things up. His attorneys said that's what happened after John Mayes was arrested and told police he broke into the doctor's home and waited in his bedroom for one hour before beating him to death with a pool cue stick.

"Anytime John was confronted with conflict he would just back up and take responsibility," she said.

Prosecutors asked Carol Mayes about her son's past trouble. He was arrested on suspicion of breaking into two homes and two buildings and he was sent to the New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell. But he was kicked out for smoking marijuana.

His parents then enrolled him at the New Mexico Boys Ranch in Belen. White, who worked at the ranch, said Mayes was just starting to open up in counseling sessions when he returned home and killed Nordstrom.

"He was very vulnerable. He had begun to open a vault," White said. "He had opened a door a little tiny crack and was letting me see inside."

John Mayes spent two days alone in his room prior to the attack on the doctor. Carol Mayes said when she went into his room after he ran away from home, John Mayes apparently had been looking at the tiny boots they bought for him in the Ukraine before adopting him and playing with his childhood toys.

Schwartz said everything about the story Mayes told during his preliminary hearing is consistent with a RAD diagnosis. He ran away from home because he was scared of going back to the ranch for in-depth therapy, he sought out attachment in a stranger in Nordstrom, and then started to snap when Nordstrom took his shirt off, she said.

Mayes said in his preliminary hearing that he started to strike Nordstrom with the doctor's pool cue when the doctor made a sexual advance.

"I believe he was in a dissociative state. He was re-experiencing the original trauma, Schwartz said. "I believe (the self-defense story) fits everything we know about him to a tee."

Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and rboetel@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.