GRAND FORKS, N. D. – A North Dakota man has pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of a woman he thought was a witch. Mr. Akmal Rashidovich Azizov, 20, and a valedictorian pleaded guilty on October 7, 2019 from charges last year in the case. The alleged incident occurred at 5:40PM on September 5 of 2018 when Mr. Azizov approached the victim he had reportedly stalked for 3 weeks prior.
Reports suggest that Mr. Azizov believed the woman to be a witch and, “the cause of all negativity in his life.” He allegedly had planned to kill the victim on the University of North Dakota campus sometime in mid-August when he started stalking the victim. The victim’s religious or spiritual practices are unknown. The multiple wounds to the victim – lacerations and bruising – were not reported as life-threatening.
Court documents state that Mr. Azizov was arrested by the Grand Forks police department and subsequently charged on September 7, 2018. He made his initial appearance in court that afternoon.
According to other court documents obtained by the Bismarck Tribune, Mr. Azizov grabbed his victim from behind and attempted to slit her throat three or four times ultimately stabbing her on the left side of her neck. Detective Ronald Gibbs is quoted as stating that the victim, “was a witch and had cursed him [Azizov] and he needed to slay her.” The report continues that the victim had become frightened and removed Azizov from her life because of his “disturbing dreams” which he had apparently shared.
Stillwater News and Press reported that court documents also stated that Mr. Azizov had conducted Google searches on his phone and computer looking for instructions on how to kill witches. They add that he allegedly purchased a $150 antique silver knife with a 2” blade which his research had identified as the best way to “slay witches and demons.”
Mr. Azizov reportedly told police he had located a story from the 1800s where a man freed himself from a witch by killing her with a silver bullet.
Assistant State’s Attorney Haley Wamstad told the Bemidji Pioneer that Mr. Azizov had been held without bond because he reportedly informed the police that he would again attempt to kill the victim should he be released. He was reportedly arrested holding a “healing stone” and a silver knife. Later from jail, Azizov would ask for silver to swallow to relieve a migraine.
Mr. Azizov was subsequently charged with the attempted murder of an adult and terrorizing an adult with a dangerous weapon as well as misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief and stalking.
At the time of his arrest, Azizov surrendered items on his person. Grand Forks County Correctional Center Officer Brenda Milera commented that Azizov asked for some papers that were part of his personal belongings that “contained the cure for cancer.”
Cpl. Dan Harvala who interviewed Azizov after his arrest testified that Azizov provided a detailed statement of his actions. Harvala, who is the officer who also read Azizov his Miranda warning, testified also that he informed the accused of his right to counsel multiple times.
Azizov’s attorney, Mr. Theodore Thomas Sandberg claimed that the interview was unconstitutional. Subsequently, Mr. Azizov pleaded “not guilty” during his preliminary hearing on October 10, 2018. Sandberg contended that the knife was not sharp enough, “to cause actual damage,” and that mental health issues were possible.
According to court records obtained by The Wild Hunt, Sandberg filed a motion on October 31, 2018 that all charges against his client be dismissed because of violations of the defendant’s Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights.
A little over a week later, Sandberg filed a subsequent motion that his client’s statements be suppressed because they were made in violation of Miranda. Sandberg has argued his client may have mental health issues. The Bemidji Pioneer reported that Azizov when arrested told police, “I’m the guy you’re looking for,” and that he allegedly said he was dealing with schizophrenia.
The defense’s expert reportedly assessed that Azizov’s actions were a consequence of his delusions from mental illness. An evaluation of Azizov at the state hospital, however, suggested that while he may suffer from mental illness, he was competent enough to stand trial. That assessment took place in March 2019.
Azizov then appeared in court in May and July of this year as part of evidentiary hearings and a consideration of the motions to drop charges. Sandberg again noted that is his client was interviewed without counsel adding in the court brief that, “The damage is now done,” regarding Azizov’s constitutional rights. Sandberg added that, “you cannot unhear the statement; you cannot put toothpaste back in the tube. This brazen unconstitutional act by a government agent, or agents as the case may be, is so repugnant as to demand an equal remedy. Only dismissal will do.”
Yesterday, in a complete reversal of prior arguments, Judge Donald Hager received a change of plea and plea agreement which included an order prohibiting contact with the victim. Azizov is scheduled to be sentenced on November 12, 2019 for attempted murder, terrorizing an adult with a dangerous weapon, stalking, and criminal mischief. He faces at least 4 years in prison and possible subsequent deportation.