Pavelich deemed competent to stand trial for assault

The local hockey hero returned to court this week, with his defense attorney filing a motion to dismiss two counts.

Mark Pavelich
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"Miracle on Ice" hockey star Mark Pavelich is now competent to stand trial on assault and firearm charges, a judge ruled.

Pavelich, 62, has been civilly committed to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter as a "mentally ill and dangerous" person since December, several months after he was arrested at his Lutsen home for allegedly beating his neighbor with a metal pole.

Court documents state that Pavelich has been diagnosed with a "neurocognitive disorder that affects his ability to reason and recognize reality." At least one psychologist opined that the condition may be related to a series of head injuries sustained during his long playing career.

Attorneys indicated in April that Pavelich had begun voluntarily taking neuroleptic medication and attending therapy sessions — treatment steps he had resisted in the past.

In subsequent weeks, two mental health experts who examined Pavelich opined that he "presently has sufficient ability to rationally consult with counsel, understand the proceedings and participate in his defense," according to a recent order from 6th Judicial District Judge Michael Cuzzo.


While Pavelich remains under an initial civil commitment, with future conditions to be determined after a June 26 hearing, Cuzzo's order allows the criminal case to resume after being on hold for nine months.

Pavelich was arrested Aug. 15 after allegedly striking 63-year-old James T. Miller with the weapon, leaving the victim with injuries that included two cracked ribs, a bruised kidney and a fractured vertebra. According to a criminal complaint, Pavelich had accused Miller of "spiking his beer" a short time after they returned from fishing together.

It was later reported that Pavelich has repeatedly experienced delusions that friends and family members are attempting to poison him. His arrest, according to the December commitment order, came after a series of incidents since 2015 in which Pavelich allegedly damaged property belonging to family and friends.

Evidence collected in those mental health evaluations may be used at trial if Pavelich raises a defense of not guilty by reason of mental illness or deficiency.

Pavelich is charged in State District Court in Grand Marais with four felonies: second- and third-degree assault, possession of a short-barreled shotgun, and possession of a firearm with a missing or altered serial number.

The firearm charges stem from a search of Pavelich's residence during the court of his arrest. Authorities reported locating a shotgun with a filed-off serial number that was shorter than the legal 26 inches.

Defense attorney Chris Stocke this week filed a motion to dismiss those two counts, claiming that the weapon was seized as part of an illegal search of Pavelich's residence and that it did not qualify as a short-barreled shotgun under the law.

Cuzzo scheduled a contested hearing for June 22. A trial date has not been scheduled.


Pavelich was a forward on the 1980 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team , which famously defeated the dominant Soviet Union and went on to win the gold medal. He grew up a prep star at Eveleth High School before becoming an All-American at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Following Olympic glory, Pavelich spent several years in the National Hockey League, mostly with the New York Rangers. After retirement, he became a land developer on the North Shore, mostly shying away from public attention and famously taking 35 years to return to the site of the Soviet Union upset in Lake Placid, New York.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or
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