A man in Idaho may spend the rest of his days behind bars for slitting his roommate’s throat and stabbing him multiple times after baselessly claiming the victim was trying to start a Nazi cult. District Judge Bruce Pickett on Wednesday handed down a sentence of 27 years to life in prison to 34-year-old Douglass Taylor for the brutal 2020 murder of 51-year-old Hermann Hans Woerrlein, the Idaho State Journal reported.
Taylor in December pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder after reaching a deal with prosecutors stipulating that the state would seek a sentence of no more than 25 years to life in prison.
Taylor’s attorney, public defender Jason Gustaves, reportedly spent much of Wednesday’s proceeding emphasizing his client’s struggles with mental health and the state’s failure to provide him with necessary assistance. He reportedly detailed Taylor’s history, which began when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia at around 20 which then progressed to schizoaffective disorder soon after, per East Idaho News.
“This is a crime that shouldn’t have happened,” Gustaves reportedly said. “Hans didn’t deserve to die. Two families didn’t need to lose their families like this. The hospitals and the courts, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare have all touched Doug too many times to be righteous. Idaho has a deeply flawed structural system for mental health that has allowed these types of cases to put the public at risk.”
Gustaves also reportedly noted that Taylor had been hospitalized or committed to a mental health facility between 29 and 32 times since his initial diagnosis.
A judge in December 2019 reportedly ordered Taylor committed, and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare sent him to Blackfoot’s State Hospital South. But he was released after five weeks, despite having “exhibited bizarre behavior” just two days before he was sent away, Gustaves reportedly said. He referred to the state’s mental health system as a “sieve” that turns patients over as quickly as possible “to alleviate the pressing need for bed space.”
Less than two months after his release, Taylor fatally stabbed Woerrlein.
But Judge Pickett tacked on two additional years to what prosecutors recommended, highlighting the “heinous” nature of Taylor’s crime.
“This is a horrific case,” Pickett reportedly said just prior to handing down the sentence. “It’s also a horrifically sad case. I distinguish that because I think your attorney has laid out — and I’m going to be addressing — those mental health issues. But the state has also laid out the heinous nature of the crime.”
As previously reported by Law&Crime, officers with the Idaho Falls Police Department on March 10, 2020 responded to a 911 call at approximately 10:30 p.m. about a man being stabbed at a sober home for persons with mental illnesses on the corner of Higbee Avenue and 17th Street. Upon arriving at the scene, first responders reportedly found a motionless Woerrlein in a pool of blood on the floor of the kitchen.
Another resident at the house reportedly told police at the scene that he heard a commotion coming from upstairs as he was preparing to go to bed in the basement, saying he heard Woerrlein yell, “No, please stop,” and went to see what was happening.
“I ran up the stairs, and I seen [sic] Douglass standing above Hans Woerrlein with blood on the floor,” the roommate said, according to an affidavit obtained by East Idaho News. “He had a knife in his hand, and he had been pulling it out of Hans Woerrlein’s neck. He then ran through the house, dropped the knife in the living room and went out through the front door.” An autopsy determined that Woerrlein suffered “17 stab wounds and six slashes” from the knife.
Officers quickly found Taylor sitting behind a nearby building and reportedly brought him to the County Law Enforcement Building where police say he readily admitted to the murder. He was reportedly covered in the victim’s blood.
“[Taylor] responded that he was responsible for the killing of Hermann Hans Woerrlein,” IFPD Detective Howard Schwicht reportedly wrote in the affidavit. “[Taylor] advised words to the effect that he had ‘brutally stabbed that guy . . . and made sure he was dead. [Taylor] estimated that he stabbed him about 15 times (and) then slit his throat.”
He reportedly told investigators that Woerrlein was “trying to start a new cult with German mythology” and allegedly referred to the victim as “young retard Hitler.” Taylor also reportedly emphasized that he was an atheist who “did not tolerate proselytizing.”
After stabbing Woerrlein, Taylor told police he did not want to help the man, saying “he just wanted to put that thing [the knife] down,” the affidavit said.
The roommate who called 911 reportedly told investigators that political and religious talk was common in the house and that Taylor and Woerrlein had never fought prior to the stabbing.
In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Pickett also ordered Taylor to pay a fine of $5,000 as well as $3,100 in restitution, per East Idaho News.
[image via YouTube/East Idaho News screengrab]
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