Bundang stabbing rampage suspect requests psychological evaluation

The suspect behind the deadly stabbing rampage in Bundang, south of Seoul, on Tuesday requested the court give him a psychological evaluation, claiming he had a mental illness at the time of the crime.

The 22-year-old suspect, Choi Won-jong, is accused of ramming his mother's vehicle into random pedestrians outside a busy department store in Bundang and then attacking shoppers with a knife inside the establishment on Aug. 3.

The stabbing rampage left two people dead and 12 others wounded.

In Tuesday's second hearing of his trial at the Suwon District Court's branch office in Seongnam, Choi admitted to murder, attempted murder and all the other charges raised against him.

But his lawyer requested the court's permission for a psychological evaluation of Choi, saying there had been circumstantial signs that he may have had schizophrenia at the time of the crime.

"Given that the accused, who was diagnosed with a schizoid personality disorder in 2020, committed the crime in a state of delusion, he is likely to have developed a delusional disorder or schizophrenia and, thus, an accurate evaluation is necessary," Choi's lawyer said.

The Criminal Act permits the exemption from or mitigation of punishment for crimes committed by the mentally ill.

Prosecutors have said Choi, living alone in isolation, had developed delusions of persecution that got worse as he became exposed to online posts complaining of similar symptoms.

But they have concluded that he was not in a state of mental vulnerability at the time of the crime because he was intellectually active enough to do stock trading and computer programming. He had also been found to have searched the internet for information on "sentence mitigation for mental vulnerability."

Since his mental illness diagnosis in 2020, Choi has not received any medical treatment in the past three years, dropped out of a university due to mental difficulties and later moved to his current university, where classes are given mostly online.

The court said it will decide whether to grant the request after reviewing related evidence and investigation records.

Following the hearing, families of stabbing rampage victims strongly protested Choi's move. The husband of a 60-something victim, who died at a hospital while under treatment, said: "If the sentence is mitigated because (the suspect) had an illness, crimes like this will only be repeated. I urge a stern punishment for the murderer without mitigating the sentence."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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