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Judge cites insanity as basis for acquittal

Man found not guilty in stabbing of area couple

Published: Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
Michael Mitchell

OREGON – A man accused of stabbing a Leaf River couple more than 2 years ago showed no emotion while answering questions this week during a bench trial in Ogle County Court.

On Wednesday, Judge John Redington found Michael Mitchell, 29, of Leaf River, not guilty by reason of insanity on 10 counts.

He had been charged with four counts of attempted murder, all Class X felonies; two counts of home invasion, both Class X felonies; and four counts of aggravated battery, all Class 4 felonies.

Mitchell was accused of breaking into the home of David and Denise Zellers on July 3, 2011, and repeatedly stabbing them with two knives he brought with him.

Both suffered serious injuries and were taken to the hospital. They have since recovered.

After fleeing on foot from the scene, Mitchell was taken into custody a short distance from the Zellers’ home after a 5-hour manhunt.

After more than 2 years, the case was set for a trial before Redington with no jury.

Assistant State’s Attorney Aaron Wiles had reports from the officers who responded to the scene in July 2011.

The reports stated that David Zellers received a phone call earlier that day from Mitchell, who complained about the quality of the village water supply. Zellers worked for Leaf River’s maintenance department.

Judge Redington said Mitchell suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, at which point Michell’s attorney, Eric Morrow, interrupted the judge to clarify the condition.

“It was not necessarily a consensus on the disorder,” Morrow said. “He is not legally responsible for his actions.”

He said Mitchell might also suffer from schizoaffective disorder.

“The court finds you not guilty by reason of insanity,” Redington told the defendant.

“As a result of a mental disease or disorder, you lack substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of your conduct,” the judge said.

Mitchell was ordered to have an evaluation by the Department of Human Services.

“After the evaluation, you will remain in the custody of the Ogle County sheriff,” Redington explained.

The reports will allow the court to determine whether Mitchell will be held at a Human Services facility or the Ogle County Jail.

The court and the Human Services Department will determine how long Mitchell will remain in custody.

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