A trial is set to begin Tuesday morning for the man charged in an attack on a foreign exchange student in Nashville last February.
Investigators say on Feb. 18, 2016 Dana Ericson, then 59, stabbed Yue Zhang in the back with a hatchet. Zhang was attending Brown County High School as an exchange student from China. She was transported to Columbus Regional Hospital, where she was treated and released. Ericson told police he was trying to bring about an "ethnic cleansing."
The Brown County man faces a level 1 felony attempted murder charge, as well as level 3 felony aggravated battery and level 5 felony battery resulting in serious bodily injury. Ericson is not being charged with a hate crime because Indiana is one of only five states in the U.S. without a hate crimes law.
Ericson waived his right to a jury trial. Brown County Judge Judith A. Stewart will hear arguments and issue a judgement.
According to court documents, Ericson's court-appointed public defender Jacob Moore intends to use a defense of mental disease or defect. Since his arrest, Ericson has served time alternatively at a state hospital under psychiatric care and at the Brown County Jail .
Judge Stewart ruled in April 2016 and again in Jan. 2017 that Ericson was not competent to stand trial, as he lacked the ability to understand the proceedings against him and assist in his defense. After 90 days, the state deemed Ericson had regained competence to stand trial.
Over the past year and a half, Ericson has sent dozens of letters, mostly handwritten, to Judge Stewart. The letters are often confusing and accuse Brown County officials of participating in a conspiracy against him.
Several letters include a swastika next to the signature. Ericson sometimes refers to himself as the "King of Germany." In a typed letter dated July 6, 2017, Ericson apologizes to Judge Stewart for what he calls "rather tormented correspondence" he sent previously.
"I came from a deep psychological disturbance and dysfunction," Ericson wrote, adding that he wanted a new public defender because he felt Moore was not providing an acceptable defense. At a hearing later that month, Ericson said he was satisfied with his representation.
Brown County Prosecutors indicate in court documents they plan to use photos and audio from the scene of the crime as evidence. Zhang is listed as a potential witness for the prosecution.
The trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday at 9 a.m. and is expected to last two days.