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Judge orders competency exams for Purdue murder suspect
Ji Min Sha, accused in murder of his McCutcheon Hall roommate, said little in court Thursday, as judge orders evaluation. Plus, Lafayette couple was at White House for marriage equality bill signing.
Thanks today to Lafayette Master Chorale for its support of this edition. Experience the beauty of the holiday season with the time-honored service of Nine Lessons and Carols. Join the chorale and children's choirs for favorite carols with organ, brass quintet and timpani as our community celebrates all the joy the holiday season has to offer. Performances: 2 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, First Baptist Church, 411 N. Seventh St. Advance tickets: $22/adults ($25 at the door), $10/students, children under 18 free with adult purchase. For tickets, click on the poster above.
JUDGE RULES PURDUE MURDER SUSPECT WARRANT EXAMINATION TO DETERMINE COMPETENCY TO STAND TRIAL
A judge spent fewer than two minutes Thursday morning going over a doctor’s initial assessment of Ji Min “Jimmy” Sha before telling attorneys in his murder case that a full competency assessment and hearing were warranted.
Tippecanoe Circuit Judge Sean Persin did not release the report, done by a doctor selected by Sha’s attorneys and presented to the judge by prosecutors during a half-hour hearing Thursday. Persin did not offer details about what it said about Sha, accused in the Oct. 5 stabbing death of his roommate, Purdue senior Verun Chheda, in their McCutcheon Hall dorm room.
“You don’t have to get too far into the report to realize evaluations are necessary,” Persin said.
Persin appointed a psychiatrist and a psychologist to examine Sha before holding a competency hearing later. Persin said Thursday that he didn’t expect the two doctors to complete their work for 60 days.
Sha, shackled in a prison jumpsuit and sporting a goatee he didn’t have in October, spoke twice during the hearing – once to give Persin his name and a second time to acknowledge that the judge did not want to hear facts about the case.
“Yes, your honor,” Sha said.
At issue Thursday was a motion from defense attorney Kyle Cray to have the court order assessments, to determine whether Sha could stand trial and in advance of plans to use an insanity defense. In court filings in November, Cray wrote that concerns about Sha’s “perception of reality and mental state” existed before Chheda’s death. Cray referred in a court filing to “documents and a multitude of statement asserting (Sha’s) belief he is extensively involved in international espionage and is a former CIA operative.”
In October, on his way to a preliminary hearing at a Tippecanoe County Jail courtroom, Sha told reporters that he was blackmailed and that he was sorry.
Cassidy Laux, a Tippecanoe County deputy prosecutor, had argued during an early December hearing that mental illness did not necessarily add up the ability to stand trial. Laux had argued that prosecutors had not been given access to initial assessments about Sha and that they weren’t prepared to simply take Sha’s attorneys at their word.
Persin had reluctantly scheduled Thursday’s hearing, saying he wanted to hear from Sha directly but had feared that he might start talking about what happened in ways that could prompt a change of venue in the case.
“I can speed this up a lot,” Laux said in court Thursday morning.
Laux said that since the last hearing, defense attorneys had shared results of an initial examination. He said prosecutors were satisfied that further court-mandated assessments were in order.
That eliminated any other questions of Sha in the courtroom Thursday, before he was taken back to the Tippecanoe County Jail.
No further hearings had been set in the case, as of Thursday.
According to court records filed with the murder charge, the Tippecanoe County prosecutor revealed that the 22-year-old Purdue junior from South Korea told officers in a 911 call that he’d just killed his roommate. According the prosecutor’s account, police found Sha shortly after his 12:44 a.m. call to 911 in his first-floor dorm room. Police said he was in blood-covered clothes. Police found Chheda dead in a chair in the room.
The day of the killing, Purdue Police Chief Lesley Wiete called the attack “unprovoked and senseless.”
According to court documents, police said they found a folding knife on the floor of room and that Sha told them the knife was his. A report from an autopsy by the Tippecanoe County coroner, Chheda was killed by “multiple sharp force trauma injuries.”
Chheda, 20, was a senior majoring in data science at Purdue. Hundreds of students and others gathered for vigils on campus in the days after his death.
ICYMI: Here’s a way in to coverage of the Indiana Court of Appeals overturning the felony theft convictions against former Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising.
A LAFAYETTE COUPLE’S MOMENT AT THE WHITE HOUSE
Nice moment this week for Tonya Agnew and Amy Crampton, a Lafayette couple who found themselves among the thousands invited to the White House lawn to witness President Joe Biden sign the Respect for Marriage Act into law.
“It’s just surreal,” Agnew said Wednesday, after landing at the Indianapolis Airport.
Agnew, chief communications officer for the nonprofit Family Equality, said she’d been asked to help identify 10 or 15 people who warranted invitations to the signing event for a law that gave federal protection to same-sex and interracial marriages. She said staff members were gathered with that list. The invitation from the White House came Sunday afternoon, leaving them to scramble to get to Washington, D.C., in time for Tuesday’s event.
“You can probably still hear the shock in my voice,” Agnew said. “Getting to be there for this incredibly historic moment for this bipartisan bill that so many had worked so hard to pass, I’m not sure how to tell you.”
Once there, Crampton scoped out a spot along a fence line where they could get the best view. (Years of chasing kids on the high school cross country circuit pays off, for sure.) They got weepy along with everyone else when Cyndi Lauper sang “True Colors.” And they took pictures with Pete Buttigieg, former South Bend mayor and Secretary of Transportation, and his husband, Chasten.
“It was just this joyful vibe,” Agnew said.
Married for nine years, but together for 24 years, they say they’ve lost track of anniversaries in the slow roll of marriage equality rulings and measures, even as they pull together their thoughts from the White House event.
“There are mixed emotions,” Crampton said. “I mean, being gay in America is a roller coaster ride. You’re celebrating one minute, you’re getting attacked the next. This definitely recharges everyone.”
Agnew thanked Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, who was among a small handful of Republicans who voted for the measure. It’s a vote that earned him a censure from Cass County Republicans, who sent out the signal from Logansport for other county-level Republicans across Indiana to do the same. Agnew said that she and others from Greater Lafayette had been part of a call earlier this year with one of Young’s staff members to discuss the Respect for Marriage Act.
“I'm so grateful that he voted the way he did,” Agnew said. “I'm sure that was not an easy thing for him to do.”
What’s next? Agnew said there’s always a what’s next, including work on legislation called the Equality Act, which would give federal discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community.
“That’s all we want to do is to exist and go about our lives and pay our bills and take care of our homes and take our kids to school and help them with homework,” Agnew said. “Not asking for anything special. Just want equal treatment.”
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SO, THIS HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE CITRUS BOWL: Let’s get a headcount on the Purdue bus for the Citrus Bowl. Quarterback Aiden O’Connell, tight end Payne Durham and wide receiver Charlie Jones are out, per the university, so they can prep for the NFL draft. But look who’s in, as an interim assistant coach ..
SPEAKING OF PURDUE FOOTBALL: Indianapolis Star reporter Dana Hunsinger Benbow had this backgrounder on Purdue’s new head coach. Give it a read here: “After the cameras turned off, Purdue's Ryan Walters told his life story. It is incredible.”
AND, FINALLY … ANOTHER (LOCAL) SONG FOR THE HOLIDAY: KYLE BLEDSOE
Pick up all the chances you get to see Lafayette blues guitarist Kyle Bledsoe in 2023. Today, continuing with the Christmas and holiday songs from Lafayette/West Lafayette artists, enjoy his looping version of “Carol of the Bells,” one he calls “Carol of the J-200.”
What’s on your local playlist: What Lafayette/West Lafayette acts have put out holiday songs, whether their own or covers, through the years? And how can I listen to them/watch them/share them? Send me a note with your favorites: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or put them in the comments section here:
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