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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Stabbing defendant pleads not guilty by reason of insanity

An 18-year-old who stabbed another man in the head repeatedly outside a downtown homeless shelter in August pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity on Thursday.

David N. Vincent, who was 17 at the time of the attack, will be indefinitely committed at Eastern State Hospital.

Vincent waved with shackled hands to his mother in a Spokane courtroom Thursday afternoon. A surveillance video captured him stabbing Michael Shartle, who was exiting the Catholic Charities’ House of Charity on Aug. 22.

Vincent told investigators at the time that he planned to rob and kill the man, who had bullied him. He was armed with three knives during the incident. Shartle, who did not appear at Thursday’s hearing, told police he’d never seen Vincent before.

A subsequent mental health evaluation ended with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Vincent told doctors he spoke with God and that he disliked taking psychotropic medications because they interrupted that communication, according to court documents.

Forensic psychologists found that Vincent lacked the capacity to form intent in the attack, and that he would be incapable of assisting with his own defense. Prosecutor Robert Sargent and defense attorney Anna Nordtvedt began negotiating a way for Vincent to avoid a sentence in a general population prison.

Vincent’s tearful mother thanked both of them Thursday.

“He’s my only son, and my oldest child,” she told Spokane County Superior Court Judge Linda Tompkins. “I still have great aspirations for him.”

Shartle required stitches in the back of his head, according to court documents. He also received defensive wounds to his hands and wrists, and surveillance video showed Vincent cornering him during the attack, according to investigators.

Mental hospital admissions of patients deemed not guilty by reason of insanity are rare in Washington, according to a 2009 report by the Department of Social and Health Services. The department reported 22 new admissions to the state’s two mental hospitals annually for that reason, compared to the more than 40,000 felony criminal cases filed statewide each year.

Vincent has no other listed criminal history in Washington, according to court records. Eastern State Hospital staff in Medical Lake will evaluate him every six months, and determine when he is eligible for monitored release, Nordtvedt said. But that “probably isn’t going to be for a while, because of the nature of the charge,” she said.

Prosecutors agreed to lower the charges from first-degree attempted murder to first-degree assault. But Sargent said his office, including Prosecuting Attorney Steven Tucker, would not allow the proceedings to take place in a juvenile court, based on the severity of the attack.

“If we did that, the maximum we could hold (Vincent) was until he was 21, and then no matter what happens, he’d have to be let go,” Sargent said.

Vincent shook Sargent’s hand and paused while being led from the courtroom after his mother grabbed his attention.

“I’ll see you soon,” she said.