CASSOPOLIS, Mich. — The attorney representing an Elkhart man accused of stabbing a coworker to death at Ameri-Kart last week is questioning the suspect's mental state.
James Miller, who was appointed to represent 23-year-old William Henderson, said his client's mental state could factor into their defense, but Miller hasn't made a final determination.
Henderson is accused of stabbing 24-year-old Jan Mendez in the neck on a break inside the Ameri-Kart facility at 19300 Grange Street a few miles north of Simonton Lake on the morning of Jan. 11. Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said Henderson had planned the crime well in advance as a way to join the "Murder Club" in the gang with which he was affiliated.
Miller noted that Henderson, an Elkhart Memorial High School graduate, has a history of violent crimes, which could indicate some mental impairment. Statements from Henderson's relatives also called his mental status into question, Miller told our news partners at ABC57.
For now, however, Miller said the defense will be based on a regular not guilty plea and a mental competency examination has not been ordered.
ABC57 attended a conference between Miller and Fitz on Thursday, where the two sides discussed matters surrounding the case. Henderson is scheduled for a preliminary exam in Cass County Circuit Court at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 25, after which the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to order Henderson to stand trial.
Fitz has said multiple people witnessed the attack inside a break room at Ameri-Kart and Henderson later confessed to the murder on videotape during an interview with investigators.
"My office will be calling on witnesses, putting on evidence to endeavor to establish that a murder occurred, that a crime occurred and evidence to show that the defendant is the one who did it," Fitz told ABC57 outside court on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Mendez's family in Puerto Rico is making arrangements to bury the young father who recently had moved to Elkhart seeking a better life.
"We’re also in contact with the family we do expect to be meeting with the family," Fitz said of Mendez's family. "This is obviously something that is very near and dear to them and we will be keeping them well apprised as we go forward."