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Suspect in stabbing of Indiana University student has history of ‘severe mental illness,’ says defense attorney

<i>Monroe County Corrections</i><br/>Billie Davis
Monroe County Corrections
Billie Davis

By Nicki Brown, CNN

The woman accused of stabbing an Indiana University student “has a long history of severe mental illness” and was “seeking help managing her condition up to and including the day of the alleged attack,” according to her defense attorney.

Billie Davis, who is White, allegedly said she was motivated by race when she repeatedly stabbed the student, who is of Asian descent, on a city bus in Bloomington on January 11th, according to court documents and a student group.

Davis and the victim had been riding separately on the bus, and when the victim tried to exit, Davis got up from her nearby seat and allegedly stabbed the victim in the head with a folding knife, leaving puncture wounds, a probable cause affidavit says.

In a statement emailed to CNN, Kyle Dugger said people close to the suspect describe no racist attitudes or history.

The 56-year-old has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder, aggravated battery, and battery by means of a deadly weapon, according to online court records.

“I would caution the public not to jump to conclusions about a person’s thoughts or beliefs based on police claims from a single interview, and advise even more caution when the interview was taken from a person in custody who may be experiencing psychosis,” Dugger wrote.

In a court filing last week, Dugger said he would seek an insanity defense and prove Davis is “incapable of assisting in the preparation of her defense because of mental illness.” Online court records show the court has asked Davis to undergo mental health evaluations.

Duggar also asked the court to schedule a competency hearing. Two court-appointed psychiatrists will evaluate whether Davis was insane at the time of the alleged incident and if she’s competent to stand trial, Dugger wrote in his emailed statement. The judge will make the final decision about her competency, likely in about three to six months, he said.

The insanity defense will be decided by the jury, Dugger wrote. “When insanity is raised as a defense, the jury can return a verdict of guilty, not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, or guilty but mentally ill,” he said.

If an individual is found not guilty due to insanity, prosecutors will move to have the individual committed to the state Division of Mental Health and Addiction, according to Dugger.

“The truth about why bad things happen is rarely simple,” Dugger wrote in his statement. “It is much easier to demonize a person who does something we don’t understand than it is to try to work out the real reasons leading to potential tragedy.”

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