Weather Forecast


Judge rules that Babbitt man charged in strangling death needs second evaluation

Tom Olsen | Duluth News Tribune

A Babbitt man accused of strangling his mother’s boyfriend to death has been found mentally ill by one psychologist, but must undergo a second evaluation, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Shawn Russel Doherty, 25, will enter pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness, his court-appointed attorney, Bruce Williams, told the News Tribune.

“(Mental illness) is something I think he’s been suffering from for many years,” Williams said.

Doherty is accused of killing 55-year-old Paul John Bulen of Mahtomedi, Minn., on Jan. 13. Bulen, who was in a relationship with Doherty’s mother, was staying at the Dohertys’ Babbitt home temporarily.

Doherty underwent a competency evaluation following his initial appearance in court on a second-degree murder charge on Jan. 16. While the report is not public, Williams said the evaluation found that his client is suffering from mental illness and is not competent to participate in his own defense.

Judge Gary Pagliaccetti, however, granted a prosecution motion for a second evaluation at a hearing Wednesday. Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Michelle Anderson said she requested the second evaluation because the initial psychologist, Dr. Craig Stevens, had recently evaluated Doherty for a civil commitment case.

“We discovered that (Stevens) had done a previous evaluation in a civil commitment, and we wondered whether it was appropriate for him to do another evaluation,” Anderson said. “There’s not any particular reason why we’d have an issue with his evaluation.”

Proceedings in the case are on hold as the court awaits the results of the second evaluation, which will be conducted by Dr. Jonathan Beyer. Pagliaccetti will be able to weigh both evaluations in deciding how the case will proceed, and attorneys said a contested hearing could be necessary if there are discrepancies in the reports.

If Doherty is found incompetent to assist his attorney in his defense, Pagliaccetti would need to determine whether he can be rehabilitated to stand trial. By entering not guilty and mental illness pleas, a jury would first need to consider whether Doherty committed the crime, and then determine if he was mentally competent at the time.

Bulen told Lynda Doherty that he was afraid to be left with her son shortly before he was killed, according to the criminal complaint. Shawn Doherty had allegedly told his mother, “This guy is getting between us. I’m going to kill him.”

Bulen was found dead in the street outside the Doherty home, 37 Astor Road, just after 11 a.m. It appeared that he had been bloodied and dragged from the front of the home, according to authorities. A trail of blood was covered up with snow. Police said evidence inside the house suggested that Doherty had strangled Bulen on the upper level of the house and dragged him down the stairs.

Authorties said Doherty was found in the fetal position in an upstairs bathtub. He allegedly told officers, “I did it for my grandpa. I put him in the dirt.”

An autopsy performed on Bulen determined that he died of asphyxia due to manual strangulation.

Citing particular cruelty, the prosecution is seeking an above-guideline sentence for Doherty should he be convicted. Second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.

Forum News Service

The Forum Communications News Service is the premier news wire service covering the Upper Midwest, including the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin. In addition to breaking and enterprise news, we offer a wide variety of sports, features, business, agriculture, outdoors and opinion content. For more information about the services we offer or to discuss content subscriptions, please contact us.