DISCOVERY BAY (BCN) — William Shultz, accused of brutally stabbing to death a 9-year-old boy two years ago while he slept in his own bed in Discovery Bay, was found guilty of first-degree murder Thursday afternoon by a Contra Costa County Superior Court jury.
The jury of seven women and five men took only about 45 minutes to return the verdict after being given the case Thursday morning at the tail end of the nine-day trial in the killing of Jordon Almgren.
Shultz was also convicted on a felony burglary charge for stealing an Almgren family truck after the killing.
The question of whether he committed the crimes was never in dispute.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that the then-18-year-old Shultz entered Jordon Almgren’s bedroom in the early morning hours of April 26, 2015, and repeatedly plunged a 5-inch hunting knife into the boy’s body.
Shultz slit Almgren’s throat, opening up his carotid artery. He stabbed him in the neck, severing his spinal column. Shultz sank the knife into the boy’s temple and stabbed him so hard in the chest that the attack
left hilt marks on Almgren’s body.
Both sides also agree that Shultz was mentally ill at the time of the killing, having been diagnosed after the crime as bipolar with a delusional belief that an apocalyptic world war was imminent.
During the trial’s closing arguments Thursday, it became clear that Shultz’s fate hinged on whether the jury believed he committed the murder after planning it out and weighing his chances, or if he did it in an impulsive fit of delusional spontaneity.
If they believed the latter, they would have returned a guilty verdict for second-degree murder.
Deputy District Attorney Simon O’Connell told the jurors Thursday that Shultz didn’t have to be completely sane to premeditate the killing.
“I’m not saying that William Shultz did not have mental impairment,” O’Connell said. “Clearly his mental illness drove him to the killing.”
Shultz felt he needed to kill someone in order to “practice and see what it’s like to kill” in order to be prepared for the coming apocalypse, O’Connell said.
Despite his delusions, however, Shultz carefully planned out the murder, selected his target based on the probability of successfully getting away with it and understood the consequences of getting caught, O’Connell said.
“Just because you suffer from a mental defect or delusions, that does not negate premeditation and deliberation,” O’Connell said.
During O’Connell’s closing arguments, he showed jurors video of Shultz tearfully confessing to investigators, photos of Almgren’s bloody bed — where the murder took place — and photos of wounds to Shultz’s arm where he accidentally slashed himself while his victim struggled for life.
By the end of O’Connell’s presentation, several jurors were tearing up or openly crying and members of the Almgren family and their friends, who had packed into the courtroom gallery, were visibly upset.
Deputy Public Defender Cynthia Scofield, however, said there was no evidence to suggest that Shultz had some kind of “master plan” to kill Almgren that night at his home in the unincorporated Contra Costa County community of Discovery Bay.
“It’s clear that there was no intent on Mr. Shultz’s part when he arrived at the house to commit murder,” Scofield said.
Shultz, who was best friends with Jordon Almgren’s older brother, was sleeping over at the Almgren home because he’d been kicked out of his own after having an argument with his mother.
She had been so worried about him earlier in the day that she called the sheriff’s office for help.
A deputy was dispatched, and eventually, Shultz agreed to go voluntarily to a mental health facility for an evaluation. He was sent home that same day without being given any medication to control his delusions.
Scofield had told the jury earlier in the trial this is was “what seals the deal in Billy’s chaotic mind.”
“Mr. O’Connell concedes that William Shultz has a mental illness, but he’s essentially arguing that it’s just not that bad,” Scofield said.
Shultz, dressed in a black suit and blue shirt, remained impassive throughout the day, barely lifting his eyes from the table in front of him, even when the guilty verdict was read in open court.
The jury will now be asked to weigh the extent of Shultz’s mental illness in the sanity phase of the trial, which is expected to begin April 10.