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Man who stabbed parents sentenced
A 39-year-old Freeland man who stabbed his parents with a knife in the midst of a mental health crisis was sentenced to prison during a melancholy hearing in Island County Superior Court Monday.
Judge Vickie Churchill called a plea bargain the “best resolution” before sentencing Sean P. DeMerchant to eight and a half years in prison, which was the recommendation from both the prosecution and defense. He pleaded guilty to attempted assault in the second degree and assault in the second degree in August.
DeMerchant spoke briefly just before being sentenced.
“Mom, dad, I love you,” he said. “I’m sorry about everything that has happened.”
DeMerchant’s mother, who was most seriously injured in the October 2011 attack, spoke on her son’s behalf. She said she knew DeMerchant was upset with a Coupeville deputy and the hospital on the night of the assault, but she was completely shocked by the attack.
“He really wanted to get mental help and he didn’t get it at the hospital,” the 67-year-old woman said.
DeMerchant’s attorney, Peter Simpson of Coupeville, said DeMerchant was in such a high degree of emotional stress that he didn’t realize what he was doing until it was too late.
He said his mother described the shocked look on his face when he came to the realization of what he had done and immediately helped his parents by applying pressure to their wounds. His mother wrote in her victim impact statement that his first aid saved her from bleeding to death.
“We are not dealing with someone who is a violent person,” Simpson said, describing DeMerchant’s “slow decline into Asberger’s and mental illness.”
Simpson said DeMerchant went to the hospital prior to the attack; he had tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pills and tequila and wanted help. But he was discharged that night “in a volatile state of mind” because of errors made by hospital staff, Simpson alleged.
Records show that DeMerchant wasn’t taking his medication correctly prior to the attacks. Simpson said his client will receive mental health treatment in prison and will be supervised by the Department of Corrections for years afterward; the officials will be able to ensure that he takes his medication as prescribed.
The Department of Corrections completed a risk assessment prior to the sentencing; Simpson said they found that DeMerchant is “low risk.”
According to the Department of Corrections report, DeMerchant is highly intelligent and has a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Tennessee. He worked as a software designer in Chicago until he was fired after he stopped going to work because of debilitating depression.
DeMerchant moved into his parent’s home in Freeland. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Asberger’s syndrome.
On the day of the assaults, the trouble started after DeMerchant got into a fight with his brother over football on TV. His behavior escalated so much that his parents called 911; when he found out, he pulled the phone lines from the wall and smashed his mom’s cell phone. Then he overdosed on pills and tequila, court documents state.
DeMerchant voluntarily went to the hospital, but then was discharged that night and had a run-in with the police. His parents picked him up from Coupeville and brought him home.
He suddenly attacked his mother in the kitchen, stabbing her in the back and slashing her throat. His father came to help and DeMerchant stabbed him in the back before the older man was able to wrestle away the knife. The mother and father ran into their bedroom. DeMerchant’s father held the door to keep him out while his mother dialed 911.
DeMerchant broke a hole in the door with a meat tenderizing mallet and forced his way into the bedroom. His father was able to get the mallet away from him. Then DeMerchant and his parents realized the extent of the injuries; he applied pressure to the wounds until deputies arrived.
DeMerchant’s mother had to be airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for treatment due to the extent of her neck injury, the Department of Corrections report states.