Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Plea Comes 11 Years after Random Killing of Three in Valley Park

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Plea Comes 11 Years after Random Killing of Three in Valley Park

Article excerpt

VALLEY PARK * For at least a year, Mitchell D. Osburn showed signs of mental illness.

He had trouble keeping a job. He told doctors that parts of his brain were swelling or shrinking. He showed up at an emergency room offering to donate a kidney, or whatever body part the staff could use.

He talked to himself.

Osburn told his neighbors in Maplewood that he had predicted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and could see the future. He thought the government was using helicopters and FedEx trucks to watch him.

Then on March 8, 2002, he stabbed three strangers to death in Valley Park with no provocation, and entered an 11-year legal limbo that ended Tuesday when he pleaded no contest to first-degree murder and armed criminal action charges.

Court documents and statements in court portray a man tormented by schizophrenia, who had killed before and took three more lives with no discernible motive.

Osburn did tell one doctor, "I killed those people because I am a prophet and everyone knows that," adding later, "I was fighting for God when that happened."

The case dragged for years over questions about Osburn's sanity and the state's attempts to force him to take medication that would make him fit for trial. In 2004, he began voluntarily taking drugs that officials said restored his competency.

By his plea, Osburn, 51, acknowledged that prosecutors had sufficient evidence to convict him. He acknowledged that while he could try an insanity defense, if he lost he might face execution.

At sentencing July 12, Osburn is expected to receive three concurrent terms each of life without parole and of life (under Missouri law really 30 years). They will run consecutively to a life sentence Osburn received in 1980 for another murder from which he was paroled.

Officials said he sat down at a picnic table at Simpson Park about 8 p.m. on a Friday night with Metropolitan St. …

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