'Mentally ill' student who stabbed classmates acquitted as he thought victims were going to kill him

Jake Wascher, 21, was practicing with Thomas Nee and Brandon Gasparino when he suddenly attacked them with a knife without any provocation.

                            'Mentally ill' student who stabbed classmates acquitted as he thought victims were going to kill him
(Source : Police Department)

A former drama student who stabbed two of his fellow students as they filmed a movie for one of their classes has been acquitted of charges after a judge ruled on October 18 that he was suffering from a psychotic episode at the time.

Jake Wascher, 21, was practicing with Thomas Nee, 19, and Brandon Gasparino, 21, at the latter's on-campus apartment at the University of Hartford on March 31 when he suddenly attacked both of them with a knife without provocation, according to the Hartford Courant

The brutal attack left Nee with wounds to the chest and back and fighting for his life, with Gasparino similarly suffering wounds to the back and chest. Wascher, who fled the scene after the incident, was apprehended two hours later when a policeman spotted him hiding between the trees.

At his hearing at the Hartford Superior Court, both Nee and Gasparino testified that they were taken aback by the sudden attack and said they had never previously experienced any trouble with Wascher. They said he said nothing during the attack and revealed he seemed "a little spacey."

Dr. John Bonetti, a psychiatrist from the Insitute of Living, said, in the days before the attack, Wascher showed signs of illness and paranoid thoughts. He said the 21-year-old believed the end of the world was approaching and that he was concerned for his safety.

Dr. Bonetti said Wascher believed he could determine someone's intention to harm him by looking at their pupils and their diet choices. He added that, on the day of the stabbings, he believed Nee and Gasparino were about to kill him and heard a song that told him to kill them first.

It was also revealed to the court that, in the months after the attack, Wascher's condition had returned to normal when he was medicated, and that, when he missed a dose of anti-psychotic medication, he wrote a suicide note, jumped from the second-floor tier and then attacked a correction officer.

Judge James T. Graham, who met with Wascher five times himself, ultimately ruled that the 21-year-old had been "in the midst of a psychotic episode and suffered from paranoid delusions" and acquitted him of his charges.

After the hearing, Wascher was committed to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), where the staff is expected to evaluate his current mental health conviction.

He is now facing an extended stay inside Whiting Forensic Hospital, a maximum-security institute for people who have been acquitted of crimes based on mental disease.

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