An expected courtroom duel over drug-induced insanity caused prosecutors to reduce charges and seek a second-degree murder conviction against an Omaha man who stabbed his roommate to death.
Two doctors had ruled that Gregory Dodds was insane at the time of the killing of promising UNO engineering student Vedant Patel. The reason for his insanity: his rampant, months-long use of marijuana and K2, a synthetic substance designed to mirror marijuana.
However, Nebraska law does not allow drug use as an excuse for insanity.
Still, prosecutors say they were faced with a precarious prospect at trial: Do they risk a jury concluding that Dodds couldn't help himself because he was insane, no matter what caused that insanity?
Rather than risk an acquittal, prosecutors offered a deal and Dodds pleaded no contest Wednesday to second-degree murder and weapon use.
Dodds, 24, will be sentenced in November. He faces 21 years to life in prison.
“It would have been complicated,” Chief Deputy County Attorney Brenda Beadle said. “I think this was a good resolution.”
Dodds had viciously stabbed Patel — plunging his knife into his body seven times and slashing him another three times — on the belief that he was acting out a “righteous mission.” If he completed that mission, Dodds told doctors, he believed “something big. . .something spiritual” was going to happen.
Dodds had a history of drug abuse — ingesting painkillers, mushrooms, acid, marijuana and K2. His brother Stephen, a roommate, told doctors he didn't “remember many days when (Greg) wasn't high.”
Dodds' drug use had caused his mental health to circle the drain in September 2011. In January 2012, his mother had called authorities after Dodds said that God and Satan communicated with him through the television.
Then in March 2012, his brother, Stephen Dodds, called the Boys Town hot line the day of the crime to inquire about getting him help.
That night, Greg Dodds broke into Patel's room as Patel laid in bed. He stabbed him several times, then changed his clothes and fled.
Beadle said Patel, 22, was on the cusp of life. He was on the verge of graduating with an engineering degree from UNO's Peter Kiewit Institute and had just gotten a job with John Deere. It was a great accomplishment for a young man whose parents had moved from India to the U.S. to give their only son a better life, Beadle said.
“It's tragic,” Beadle said. “He was just a bright young man with great parents who sacrified for him.”