A Eureka man accused of trying to kill an Arcata Ço-op customer by stabbing him in the neck has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.
This morning 34-year-old Justin Derrick Crumbley entered the pleas before Judge Timothy Canning, who advised Crumbley he has been charged with attempted first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon and the special allegation of personally inflicting great bodily injury.
Crumbley allegedly stabbed Stephen Paul Sottong on Nov. 9, 2016, as Sottong was walking out the door of the Arcata Co-op. Arcata police found Crumbley holed up in a nearby office building and arrested him with the help of K-9 Baron.
Crumbley was found mentally incompetent to stand trial and was sent to Napa State Hospital, where he remained until being returned to Humboldt County Correctional Facility in April of this year.
Sottong, a local author, described his experience in an online blog in November 2017. He said he had purchased some food items and noticed a “mentally disturbed man” in the store.
“He ran out of the door behind me, hit me once in the neck with something sharp (the weapon was never recovered) and ran off,” Sottong recalled.
“I felt like he’d punched me in the neck. I stood there saying over and over ‘Why did he hit me?’ and then put my hand on my neck and saw the blood on it.”
Sottong said a Co-op employee saved his life by applying pressure to the wound until an ambulance arrived to take him to Mad River Community Hospital.
He remembers being wheeled into the emergency room, and an anesthesiologist asking him some questions.
“That’s the last thing I remember for a week.”
Sottong was hospitalized for almost two weeks, until he was strong enough to get around with a walker. A family member cared for him at home for another week.
He attended one court hearing for Crumbley, but he was still in the mental hospital. “That’s good,” Sottong wrote. “The entire world and he himself are better off with him there.”
This morning Crumbley at first refused to give up his right to a jury trial within 60 days of today’s arraignment, but then changed his mind and agreed to waive time. His trial was scheduled for April 15. He will need to be evaluated by two psychiatrists, and Canning set a Jan. 3 hearing for appointing the doctors.
In California, attempted first-degree murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Because Crumbley has pleaded both not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, a jury would first have to decide on his guilt and then, if he is convicted, on whether he was legally insane at the time.