By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
ST PETER — A September trial has been scheduled for a man who allegedly attempted to stab his mother to death while out on a day pass from the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter nearly a year ago.
The trial for Burton James Ewing Jr., 49, is scheduled to take place in Nicollet County District Court the week of Sept. 9.
During a hearing in January, Burton’s attorney, Tracy Bains, told Nicollet County District Court Judge Allison Krehbiel that she was planning to use a mental illness defense.
Bains also requested a court trial, meaning the case will be presented to Krehbiel and decided by her instead of a jury. So there would be no need for Bains to request the trial be moved to another county due to media coverage of the incident and the possibility of a tainted jury pool.
“It’s certainly our opinion that he has been mentally ill the entire time and he was mentally ill at the time of this very tragic incident,” Bains said after that Jan. 24 pretrial hearing.
Ewing was arrested May 8 after witnesses called 911 to report a stabbing was taking place at Seven Mile Creek County Park between Mankato and St. Peter on Highway 169. Dozens of law enforcement officers were already in the area because, by coincidence, another patient at the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center had escaped that day.
That man, whose escape charges were dismissed because he was found to be mentally ill, was arrested May 9 after spending the night in the same area as Seven Mile Creek. Law enforcement said the two incidents were not connected in any way.
When a Nicollet County sheriff’s deputy arrived at the park for the stabbing report, Ewing was allegedly still stabbing his mother, Marlys Olson of Coon Rapids. Olson had picked Ewing up at the hospital earlier that day. She had planned to spend the day riding bikes and having a picnic at the park with her son.
Investigators said Ewing allegedly had other plans. He had withdrawn all his money from a bank account and packed a bag with food, clothing and other provisions. The bag wasn’t checked when he left the hospital.
Ewing and his mother had stopped at a store to buy supplies for the picnic, including barbecue tongs. He used a seat from a bicycle to beat Olson as soon as they arrived at the park, according to the criminal complaint. He then allegedly attempted to kill Olson by stabbing her in the eyes with the tongs.
When the tongs started to bend, he grabbed a steak knife from the picnic supplies and started stabbing his mother in her car as witnesses watched, the complaint said. Ewing allegedly stabbed Olson more than 20 times. She was critically wounded but survived and attended the hearing in January.
Ewing beat his sister to death about 15 years ago. He was sent to the security hospital in 1998 after he was found not guilty by reason of mental illness.