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Charges: Intruder stabbed sleeping Duluth man more than a dozen times

Willie Davis Nicholson

Tom Olsen

A 20-year-old Duluth man was asleep in his bed early Saturday when an intruder looking for a place to rest stabbed him more than a dozen times in order to prevent him from calling police, according to charges filed Tuesday.

Willie Davis Nicholson, 23, was charged with attempted second-degree murder, first-degree assault and first-degree burglary in the Saturday morning incident in West Duluth.

Nicholson allegedly admitted to police that he entered an apartment on the 4700 block of Grand Avenue shortly before 7 a.m. and stabbed the victim, Benjamin VanDell, up to 15 times.

Nicholson told police he had entered the residence looking for a place to sleep, and attacked the sleeping victim when Nicholson feared he was going to get caught after a cellphone started ringing, according to the criminal complaint.

St. Louis County prosecutor Kristen Swanson called the incident an “unprovoked, vicious assault on a complete stranger.” Sixth Judicial District Judge David Johnson granted her request to set bail at $200,000.

“The brazen nature of the attack on the victim, who was unable to defend himself, and given the fact that he was asleep at the time the defendant began stabbing him, highlights the significant risk this individual poses to public safety, particularly in light of the fact that the defendant was a complete stranger to the victim and other residents of the household,” Swanson wrote in a memo to the court.