Man charged with murdering cellmate had suffered from schizophrenia, heavy cannabis use

By Guy Page

An indepth Sept. 6 report by Seven Days reporter Colin Flanders reveals that Robbie Mafuta, charged with murdering his Northwest State Correctional Facility cellmate in December, had previously suffered from paranoid schizophrenia that his hospital psychiatrist thought might be caused by his heavy consumption of cannabis. 

As reported August 8 in Vermont Daily Chronicle, Mafuta is being held on second degree murder charges stemming from fatal blunt force trauma inflicted on the head of Jeffrey Hall, 55, a Burlington homeless man, while the two were cellmates in the Swanton prison on December 22, 2022.  

Mufuta emigrated to the United States from the Congo when he was five, eventually living with his father (a harsh physical disciplinarian) in Essex Junction, Flanders reports. He played Esssex youth football and as a BHS student was a lacrosse star. After graduation, he descended into mental illness, homelessness, and criminal activity – and heavy consumption of cannabis. 

Mafuta in 2021 was arrested on charges of unlawful restraint, aggravated operation without the owner’s consent, grand larceny, larceny from a person, petit larceny and interference with emergency services, in connection with a carjacking at an Olive Garden in South Burlington. In August, 2022, he was arrested for allegedly breaking 33 residential windows in a morning crime spree.

Flanders reports that in December of 2020, Mafuta – then 19 – appeared at the UVMMC emergency room expressing fears that people wanted to kill him. Doctors suspected paranoid schizophrenia. Flanders – an experienced reporter who once wrote for the Essex Reporter, the community newspaper that covered Essex youth football – writes:

“It was months before clinicians would deliver such a diagnosis, though research on schizophrenia indicates that Mafuta’s age, migrant background and history of childhood abuse put him at a higher risk for developing the disease. But psychosis has many causes, and diagnosing an underlying condition takes time. A hospital psychiatrist who assessed Mafuta that December night wondered whether his symptoms might have been a result of heavy cannabis use. The specialist encouraged him to stay at the hospital until his condition improved.”

As they pondered legalizing cannabis in 2020, Vermont’s lawmakers and Gov. Scott were advised by leading Vermont pediatricians and other physicians of the mental illness threat posed by heavy consumption of high-potency cannabis. For example, a letter by pediatrician Dr. Lewis First and other leading physicians urged him to veto the bill:

“Perhaps the strongest evidence for severe mental health problems related to cannabis use is related to psychosis were multiple studies have linked regular cannabis use to an estimated doubling of the risk of a psychotic illness as well a more refractory course among people with existing psychotic illness.

Violent behavior as a result of cannabis induced paranoia and other psychotic symptoms is also an increasing concern. A 2019 study from Lancet Psychiatry found that their data indicated that “if high-potency cannabis were no longer available, 12.2% of cases of first-episode psychosis could be prevented.” across the sites they studied.”

The pediatricians also cited a strong connection between heavy cannabis use and increased visits to the ER and thoughts of suicide. Regardless, the State of Vermont and Gov. Scott eventually established a legal retail market for high-potency THC cannabis products.

Categories: Crime

8 replies »

  1. Hey Guy: Glad you covered this. Thank you for your work. Have you read “Tell Your Children: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence” by Alex Berenson? Retails pot stores popping up all over VT, and nobody talking about the very real risks, especially the mental health risks, especially for young men.

  2. Here, I just thought normal people murdered their cell mates. Foolish me.

    Let him out. He gets a pass on this one.

    Guess we will have to just wait and see what excuse we allow him to use the next time. AND , you know there will be a next time.

  3. Zaiina Mavish-Jameh relocated to Vermont (Brattleboro) in part for the easy, legal access to marijuana. Within a year she had murdered Leah Rosin-Pritchard, her social worker at Groundworks, with an axe. She has been deemed incompetent to stand trial.

  4. The current high potency cannabis that’s out there, isn’t your 1960’s ‘reefer.’ This guy is the ‘Poster Child’ for the progressives’ push to legalize marijuana, and the failure of their rush into that realm without really thinking it through. There was no concern for the welfare of Vermonters; all the liberals were interested in was the money to be scammed by taxing the retail outlets to fund their nonsensical agendas, or perhaps opening an outlet themselves. I have no doubt as to who the ‘dopes’ are…

  5. It is sad that the media wasn’t sharing these stories before Vermont commercialized cannabis. These stories were known – but suppressed (Any surprises here?) when Vermonters were deciding what to do with greater accessibility that commercialization would bring.

    Stories from Dr. Libby Stuyts, Psychiatrist of Colorado shared at Contois Hall in Burlington in Jan. of 2020 included Father Was Dabbing Kills Toddler Son. You can find a short clip at this link –

    You can find other stories from parents and Central Michigan University of a sudden psychotic relapse that almost caused grandpa to be killed and another of a student who murdered parents due to a psychosis from high potency marijuana.

    It is sad to see lives needlessly lost because early warnings were glossed over.

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