Mental health exam ordered for woman accused in attack on Duluth copA Duluth woman accused of assaulting a police officer who told her she couldn’t smoke near a downtown bus stop has been ordered to undergo another mental health examination, postponing a trial that had been scheduled to start in two weeks.
By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune
A Duluth woman accused of assaulting a police officer who told her she couldn’t smoke near a downtown bus stop has been ordered to undergo another mental health examination, postponing a trial that had been scheduled to start in two weeks.
Leah Lynn Nelson, 39, is charged with two counts of first-degree assault for using or attempting to use deadly force against Officer Laura Marquardt and another officer who came to her aid. She also was charged with one count each of second- and third-degree assault in the April 10, 2010, incident.
St. Louis County prosecutor Leslie Beiers and defense attorney Keith Shaw appeared for a pretrial hearing Monday before Judge Eric Hylden in State District Court in Duluth. The attorneys informed the court that Judge Mark Munger had ordered another mental health evaluation for the defendant to be conducted at the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.
After that evaluation is completed, another pretrial hearing will be held on June 1.
Nelson was earlier committed to the security hospital as mentally ill and dangerous and ordered to receive treatment with neuroleptic medications.
According to the criminal complaint:
Marquardt, an investigator in the Violent Crimes Unit, was working off-duty for the Duluth Transit Authority on April 10 enforcing parking laws and issues related to bus travel when she confronted Nelson, who allegedly attacked her, causing a broken nose and other facial injuries.
Nelson also is accused of attempting to attack Officer Ethan Roe and a citizen with the two knives that she was carrying. The knives were described as having two finger grips on the handle with razor blades attached to each finger grip. Nelson referred to the two knives as her “slicers and dicers.”
Nelson’s attack on Marquardt in front of the Holiday Center in downtown Duluth was captured on surveillance video. Without being provoked, Nelson is seen punching Marquardt in the face, kicking her in the groin, and knocking her down with the officer’s head striking the pavement.
According to the criminal complaint, Marquardt told Nelson she was in a no-smoking zone near a bus stop. Nelson responded by attacking the officer. As Marquardt lay on the ground, Nelson pulled a knife from her pocket, when a bystander, Cody Ronding, intervened. Nelson then swung the knife toward Ronding.
Marquardt regained her feet and drew her gun. She ordered Nelson to drop the knife. When she refused to do so, backup officers arrived and shot her with a Taser.
Nelson claimed the officer attacked her. She said she carried no weapons and was only drinking coffee and smoking. According to an investigator’s report, Nelson’s comments while being interviewed before being charged were at times indicative of possible mental health issues.