The man accused of attacking a foreign exchange student with a hatchet in Nashville, Indiana, in February is mentally incompetent and unable to stand trial, a judge ruled Monday.
Nashville resident Dana Ericson, 59, faces charges of attempted murder, battery with a deadly weapon and aggravated battery resulting in serious bodily injury. He has spent the last several weeks in solitary confinement in the Brown County Jail.
Ericson admitted to attacking Zhang Yue, an 18-year-old Chinese exchange student who attends Brown County High School. He struck her in the back with a hatchet in downtown Nashville on Feb. 18 as she was taking photographs for a class project.
In speaking with law enforcement, Ericson said he was attempting to perpetrate “ethnic cleansing” and targeted Yue because she was Asian. He called himself a white supremacist and said he “hates these people,” according to a probable cause affidavit.
Yue received treatment for her serious injury — a nearly 2-inch-long laceration in her back — and was released shortly after.
The FBI is still in the process of investigating the attack to determine if the assault was a hate crime, FBI spokesperson Catherine Burton said.
In Monday’s hearing, Ericson sat in the small courtroom with his striped jail uniform and handcuffs, twiddling his fingers as he grasped a small white piece of paper with his testimony.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry,” Ericson burst out in the silent courtroom, before the start of the hearing. “I’m trying to start a revolution.”
Ericson’s mother, 99-year-old Nashville resident Davida Ericson, walked into the room wearing dark, thick glasses and leaning against a tall, wooden walking stick.
“Mother, mother, thanks for coming,” Ericson said.
The judge, Judith Stewart, called two doctors, Dr. George Parker and Dr. Don Olive, and asked them to testify via speakerphone to describe their psychiatric evaluations of Dana Ericson.
Based on his interview with Dana Ericson, Olive said he believes Ericson meets the criteria for a schizoaffective disorder and has a “limited understanding of the criminal proceedings,” making him incompetent to stand trial. Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health disorder in which both schizophrenia and mood swing symptoms are present.
Olive said Ericson displayed disorganized speech, delusions and agitation.
Parker expressed similar conclusions, saying Ericson made random comments and outbursts in his interview. Parker said Ericson is clearly a bright person who is capable of restoring competency through medical treatment.
Parker recommended Ericson be committed to Logansport State Hospital, a high-security facility that provides specialized inpatient psychiatric services.
Olive estimated Ericson could recover after three to six months of treatment.
Using the doctors’ testimonies and evaluations, Stewart ruled Ericson was not competent to stand trial and would be referred to the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction.
Once Ericson has recovered competency, his trial will be rescheduled, Stewart said.
Sitting in a chair next to his defense attorney, Ericson trembled and shook during the hearing. In a testimony to the judge, he attempted to explain the “mental torture” he has been living.
“I have a hard time thinking clearly,” Ericson said. “I am a sick man.”
He called himself a “gentle man” who would not hurt a fly.
“This whole thing has been the most outrageous nightmare for me,” Ericson said.
He said his two months in solitary confinement have worsened his mental state. He claimed the jail staff members were somehow aware of his thoughts and were projecting thoughts into his mind.
“The jail is absolutely a toxic place for me,” Ericson said.
After the hearing, he asked the judge if he could say a few more words.
“We need authentic civilization,” Ericson said, arguing society has failed sick individuals.
“Authentic civilization requires authentic justice,” Ericson said. “Authentic justice brings healing.”
At the end of the hearing, Ericson reached out to his mother, kissing her forehead.
Davida said she is legally blind, the result of an accident from several months ago.
“Dana had been my caretaker,” Davida said. “An absolutely skilled and patient and loving caretaker.”
Dana held onto his mother’s hand and reached out to a male family friend as he was escorted out of the courtroom.
“There are good people in this world,” Dana said as he left.
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