Stabbing suspect has history of mental woes

Posted: Tuesday, May 08, 2001

ANCHORAGE - The man accused of stabbing four elementary school students Monday in Anchorage has been talking about killing children for years, according to testimony by two psychologists during a 1999 court hearing.

Jason W. Pritchard, 33, has a long history of run-ins with police and of harassing children on school grounds, according to a report in the Anchorage Daily News. Court files detail a history of serious psychological problems, including treatment at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.

The four children were stabbed in the neck shortly before classes were to begin Monday at Mountain View Elementary School. Three remained in serious condition at Anchorage hospitals today, while one was upgraded to fair condition. Officials said their injuries were not life-threatening. Classes at the school were canceled today and counseling was to be provided to students and parents.

Pritchard was charged with four counts of first-degree attempted murder and four counts of first-degree assault. He was being held at Cook Inlet Pre-trial Facility on $2 million bail.

Prosecutors and police said Pritchard was originally from Oregon and appeared to be living in a car.

Pritchard was diagnosed with schizophrenia and a brain disorder brought on by a suicide attempt in 1998, according to Dr. David Sperbeck, a forensics psychologist who testified at the February 1999 hearing. Sperbeck said Pritchard suffers from delusions that stem from the schizophrenia.


"He has been focused on his desire to get into heaven," Sperbeck testified. "He's got a multitude of spiritual delusions, and it has caused him to be suicidal and homicidal."

Sperbeck's testimony came at Pritchard's sentencing for a December 1998 criminal trespass case in which Pritchard, a self-proclaimed excommunicated Jehovah's Witness, walked into Kingdom Hall in Anchorage during a service and urged churchgoers to commit suicide with him so they all could go to heaven, according to the charges.

After that incident, Sperbeck said, Pritchard repeatedly discussed his desire to kill children. Sperbeck urged the court to require 24-hour supervision.

At the same hearing, another psychologist, Dr. Lawrence Maile, said Pritchard had exhibited his dangerous tendencies over a long period. Pritchard was sentenced to 130 days in jail for the Kingdom Hall incident.

Pritchard also was convicted of second-degree stalking, a misdemeanor, in 1998 after a series of incidents at schools in Homer. His record also includes convictions since 1995 for assault, criminal mischief and drunken driving, Anchorage prosecutor Carmen ClarkWeeks said.

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