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Minnesota murder defendant who said 'Jesus' directed him to stab man found competent

Benjamin David Lundquist

HIBBING, Minn.—A Hibbing murder defendant was found competent to proceed in court Thursday, nearly six months after his case was put on hold while he underwent a mental health evaluation.

Benjamin David Lundquist, 32, of Grand Rapids, is accused of fatally stabbing Joel Dean Gangness inside an apartment building in January. Lundquist allegedly admitted that he knocked on Gangness' door and confronted him at random, stating that he stabbed and bludgeoned the victim because "Jesus directed him to do it," according to a criminal complaint.

Lundquist's intentional second-degree murder case had been on hold since Jan. 26, when a judge ordered the mental health evaluation.

Dr. James Alsdurf, a court-appointment psychologist who examined Lundquist, recently concluded that the defendant is capable of understanding the court proceedings and participating in his own defense. Sixth Judicial District Judge Mark Starr accepted the findings on Thursday.

The January evaluation also was ordered to provide information about Lundquist's mental health that could be offered as evidence at trial for a mental illness or deficiency defense.

Lundquist allegedly told investigators that he went to the old Star Motel, 3901 First Ave., late on Jan. 16, knocking on the victim's door because it was marked No. 12 and "everything came to 12," according to the complaint.

He said he didn't initially intend to kill Gangness, but started arguing with him and "lost it," the charges state. Lundquist allegedly admitted hit him over the head with a DVD player before stabbing him in the back 15 times with a knife.

Gangness, 54, was discovered in the apartment by police after it was reported that he had failed to make his morning newspaper deliveries for the Hibbing Daily Tribune and was not answering his phone.

An autopsy confirmed that he had sustained approximately 15 stab wounds to the back and a skull fracture.

Lundquist was arrested later that day based on descriptions given by neighbors, who reported seeing a "strange man" walking outside the building, and surveillance video from a convenience store next door. Authorities said he was found with items stolen from Gangness' apartment.

Lundquist continues to be held in the St. Louis County Jail on $1 million bail. He is due back in court on Aug. 10.