A Vermont judge ordered a sanity evaluation for a teenager accused of stabbing a woman in the chest, and attempting to attack the woman’s 3-year-old child.
In court via video link from jail, 18-year-old Tyreke Morton was wrapping himself in a blanket as his defense attorney entered not guilty pleas to two charges of attempted second-degree murder.
The public defender assigned for the hearing described Morton in court as a high school student.
Vermont State Police troopers said late Sunday night into Monday morning, Morton stabbed a 36-year-old woman he had been living with off and on recently in the small town of Calais. The woman has a son the suspect’s age.
Police said that the victim was hospitalized but was able to provide investigators with her sworn written account of the night.
Investigators wrote in reports filed with the court that the victim told them a steak knife went "all the way in" to her chest, and when she pulled it out, Morton knocked it from her hand and started to go after the 3-year-old with the blade.
The bleeding mom was able to talk Morton out of harming the child, according to police paperwork.
Vermont State Police Trooper Logan Potskowski said in a report filed with the court that Morton told him "I mistakenly stabbed her," and after he threw down sunglasses in front of Potskowski, the suspect said he was "crazy for a reason," adding "the shades are making me go crazy."
Det. Sgt. Michael Kamerling of the Vermont State Police wrote in a sworn report that it appeared to him Morton was suffering from a mental illness or was under the influence of drugs at the time he was questioned.
According to paperwork filed with the court, the victim’s grown son told officers Morton had smoked marijuana that night, and a week and a half ago, took acid. Morton had not been acting the same since, the police reports said, and had been exhibiting erratic or alarming behavior.
Judge David Fenster ordered Morton held without bail, and also ordered an in-patient screening for sanity and mental competency.
"Those families need our help and support more than anything else," Karen Tronsgard-Scott, an advocate who has long worked to reduce violence in Vermont homes, said of families that experience violence in households.
Tronsgard-Scott, who is the executive director of the Vermont Network Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, said she was relieved to hear the 3-year-old in the Calais case is safe, though said witnessing the alleged attack was surely traumatizing.
"The emotional impact of violence in the home is huge on kids," Tronsgard-Scott observed.
While Morton was arraigned in Chittenden County, the future handling of the case will happen in Washington County.
The penalty for conviction on attempted second-degree murder in Vermont is a term of 20 years to life in prison, according to charging documents filed with the Vermont Superior Court.