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Dave Olson, Published March 10 2009

Mental exam next step in rest-stop stabbing case

Clay County authorities Monday dismissed a civil action seeking to have Harmit Bhangu committed indefinitely, but the man charged with attempted murder may still face commitment for mental issues, a prosecutor said.

The civil action against Bhangu had to be dismissed because a statutory deadline for completing the necessary mental evaluation was nearing, Assistant Clay Count Attorney Jenny Samarzja told Clay County District Court Judge Galen Vaa during a hearing Monday.

Samarzja said a doctor who was handling the case had been unable to find the necessary interpreter to talk to Bhangu, who faces charges of second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon for a Jan. 11 incident at the Interstate 94 rest stop outside Moorhead.

Bhangu is accused of stabbing a truck driver eight to 10 times. Bhangu told police God told him to do it, according to court documents.

The victim, Dale Morigeau, of Montana, survived the attack.

Clay County Attorney Brian Melton said Bhangu is being held in a state security hospital in St. Peter, Minn., pending the outcome of a mental evaluation ordered as part of the criminal case.

He said the evaluation is designed to determine whether Bhangu has the mental capacity to assist with his own defense and whether he was able to understand right and wrong at the time of the acts he is accused of committing.

Melton said it is possible the evaluation being done as part of the criminal case could lead to Bhangu being committed to a hospital like the one in St. Peter for an in indefinite amount of time.

Bhangu is from Canada, but Melton said he didn’t know whether the 32-year-old, who is originally from India, is a Canadian citizen.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555