Niles Amtrak stabbing suspect found not guilty by reason of insanity

The man charged in December 2014 with stabbing four people on an Amtrak train in Niles, Mich. has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Army veteran Michael Darnell Williams, 45, faced 12 counts, including assault with intent to murder, resisting an officer and concealing a weapon. All counts were dismissed Thursday.

Williams was found incapable of perceiving his environment.

It was determined that his actions were caused by a delusional disorder.

Williams underwent an exam at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry, where a 38-page report was produced.

According to the examiner, Williams believed that people were trying to seriously harm or kill him.

The stabbing happened December 5, 2014, on an Amtrak train as it was arriving from Chicago to the Niles station.

Police were en route to the station in response to reports of a "suspicious person" when the stabbing occurred.

Witnesses said Williams was agitated and talking to himself before the stabbing.

Williams allegedly told police he was battling a demon on the train.

When police arrived at the scene, Williams was subdued with a taser by a Niles officer.

Injured in the stabbing were Dontrel Bankhead (the train's conductor), 40, stabbed twice in the head, twice in the neck and several times in the body; 59-year old Bonnie Cleasby stabbed in the abdomen; 56-year old Dan Stewart and 47-year old Gail Vanhorst both struck in the chest. None suffered life-threatening injuries.

"I was in a mob of four people, and at one point people were falling down and people are getting back up," said Caitlin Cipri, from Chicago. "It was such a blur just trying to get to an exit."

Tyler Vandermolen, who was sitting ten rows from where the stabbing occurred, explained, "You see the police getting a lot for bad press with the stuff going on around the country these days, but you got to give it up for these guys they were there in under... within seconds of this happening. It was pretty incredible that they may have saved some lives."

The Saginaw News reported in December that Williams' family had petitioned a Saginaw court to get him mental health treatment.

Records show Wanda Williams wrote in 2005 that her nephew "began saying people were following him, people were under the house and jumping out of windows and no one else can see them."

Two doctors later met with Williams. One wrote that he was having paranoid delusions due to cocaine use. The second doctor wrote that he had acute psychosis.

According to The Saginaw News, Saginaw police reports it received through a Freedom of Information Act request say Williams was arrested in February 2014 and pleaded guilty to domestic violence for attacking his girlfriend. A judge gave him 45 days in jail.

In court on Thursday, Judge Dennis Wiley found Williams not guilty by reason of insanity. Such a finding sets into motion a process within the state’s mental health system.

In a statement, Williams' attorney, Shannon Sible said, "Given his bizarre actions, and his history of mental illness, it is not surprising that Mr. Williams was insane at the time of the attacks."

Prosecutor Michael Sepic also commented saying he agreed to the reports going into today's hearing.

He said he simply couldn't overcome the results of the opinion that Williams was mentally ill.

According to Sible, Williams will be monitored for 60 days at a mental hospital and then will likely be monitored by the state under a probate judge's order.



From the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney of Berrien County:

Prosecutor Michael Sepic announced Thursday that Michael Darnell Williams pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity Wednesday before Judge Dennis Wiley on a multi-count information stemming from the December incident.

Williams, age 45 of Saginaw, Michigan, was accused of stabbing 4 people on the Amtrak train travelling from Chicago to Michigan as it was pulling into the station in Niles, Michigan. Prior to the train arriving at the station, railroad personnel were alerted to Williams because of strange behavior and had called for police to respond. As the train stopped and police approached, Williams pulled a knife, stabbed a conductor and 3 passengers before being confronted and subdued by taser by Niles police officer Shane Daniel. The Niles Police Department, the Michigan State Police, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, the Berrien County Violent Crimes Task Force participated in the investigation, and a number of other police and fire agencies assisted.

Williams’ attorney, Shannon Sible, filed a notice of insanity defense and requested an examination for criminal responsibility by the state Center for Forensic Psychiatry. Williams was examined at the Center and a multitude of documents and recordings were reviewed by the state forensic examiner.

In a 38 page report, the examiner found, “Williams to be mentally ill and suffering from a delusional disorder which caused him to be incapable of accurately perceiving his environment, a symptom of his mental illness which was documented in the days preceding the offenses. Rather than consider his options and make a decision to engage in illegal behavior, Mr. Williams appears to have reacted spontaneously and only in consideration of delusional information. Based on his report of theoffense, supported by collateral information, he harbored specific delusions that others were following him with the intentions to cause him serious harm or kill him. It appears Mr. Williams was unable to reflect as to what would happen if he acted in such a manner.” The standard for insanity in Michigan is a person is legally insane if, as a result of mental illness, a person lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her conduct or to conform that conduct to the requirements of law. The prosecutor’s office engaged the services of an independent examiner who reviewed the aforementioned report and found it to be credible and reliable.

At the time of the plea assistant prosecutor Amy Byrd and defense lawyer Shannon Sible stipulated to the report from the Center for Forensic Psychiatry and a stipulated statement of facts. As a result of these stipulations, Judge Wiley found Williams not guilty by reason of insanity. Such a finding sets into motion a process within the state’s mental health system.