A district court judge ruled Tuesday to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether a man accused of stalking a woman and attempting to slit her throat because he believed she was a witch is mentally fit to proceed to trial.
Akmal Rashidovich Azizov, 20, could spend up to 20 years behind bars if convicted of the attempted murder charge. He's also facing a felony charge for terrorizing with a dangerous weapon and misdemeanor charges for stalking and criminal mischief.
Court documents said Azizov spent three weeks stalking a woman he knew and plotting to kill her.
He told police he believed "she was a witch and he needed to slay her," Detective Ronald Gibbs testified during the preliminary hearing.
He followed the woman around UND's campus on Sept. 5 with intent to kill her, but "lost his nerve at the last minute," court documents said. He went to the woman's apartment around 5:40 p.m. Sept. 5 and smashed in the back window of her car in an attempt to lure her outside, the affidavit said.
Azizov approached the woman from behind and tried three or four times to slit her throat and stab her on the left side of her neck, court documents said. The woman allegedly got away from Azizov and ran to a neighbor's apartment to await police. She had several non-life-threatening lacerations.
Azizov waived his right to a speedy trial last month as a judge postponed his hearing until a mental evaluation could be completed. Azizov's attorney, Theodore Sandberg, filed motions calling for a dismissal of the case and said his client's rights had been violated because police interviewed him without a lawyer in jail while he was clearly not mentally stable.
Azizov previously told police he may have schizophrenia.
Several doctors are expected to testify during an evidentiary hearing March 15 because Azizov has had multiple mental health evaluations completed.
Sandberg requested Azizov's bond be lowered so he can seek outpatient mental health treatment. He said Azizov has spent a considerable amount of time in solitary confinement since his September incarceration and being in jail is "exacerbating his mental issues."
Sandberg noted Azizov has no previous criminal charges and said the incident resulted from his mental health struggles.
"He was valedictorian of his high school back in Oklahoma," he said. "This is not someone who has lived a reckless, dangerous life."
Assistant State's Attorney Carmell Mattison said Azizov told police after his arrest that if released he would try again to kill the woman. Azizov has been held without bond since his arrest.
"It was either going to be him or her," she said.
Mattison also said some of Azizov's time in solitary confinement was because he'd fought with another inmate, repeatedly disobeyed commands from corrections officers and attempted to run past them.
District Court Judge Donald Hager refused to lower Azizov's bond Tuesday because he said he may pose a risk to the victim and community.
"His angst or anxiety is way below what that is of the young lady sitting in the back of the courtroom," he said.