A 27-year-old computer scientist from Fort Lee, VA who dragged a black woman from her car in a bizarre racially-motivated attack and then spit on police officers has been found not guilty by reason of insanity by the Chesterfield County Circuit Court on Tuesday.
Fredericksburg.com said that Judge Lynn S. Brice reviewed materials from two mental health professionals — including one working for prosecutors — and ruled that Matthew R. Ellis was not sane during the May 9 attack.
Ellis’ attorney Todd Ritter said that clinical psychologists Dr. Evan S. Nelson and Dr. Robert G. Gibby Jr. — the latter of whom was engaged by prosecutors — both concluded that Ellis suffers from bipolar disorder and was in the throes of an acute “manic episode with psychotic features” when the attack took place.
According to The Root, Ellis pulled up alongside a black woman who was waiting to turn and began screaming at her.
The woman attempted to drive away, but Ellis followed her and rammed her car from behind. When she stopped her vehicle, witnesses say Ellis dragger her out from behind the wheel by her ankles and threatened to murder her.
WRIC said the woman broke free and ran into a building where bystanders attempted to protect her. Two men restrained Ellis until police arrived, at which point he spat on them and said things that indicated to police that the attack was racially motivated.
“After initially refusing to answer any questions and keeping his eyes closed, Ellis began making obscene racial comments about the victim,” said Fredericksburg.com. “He stated he intended to kill the woman and again used a racial slur to describe her.”
When an officer asked Ellis if he’d attacked the woman because of her race, he responded, “Yes.”
The judge ordered that Ellis be committed to the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services for evaluation and Ritter confirmed that his client will be sent to Central State Hospital in Prince George County. Officials there will evaluate Ellis and determine whether he is safe to release into the public or requires continued confinement and supervision.
Early in the case, Ritter disclosed in court filings that Ellis is paranoid and delusional and that his family had beseeched him to get psychiatric help in the days before the attack.
Ritter said that the first time he met with his client, Ellis accused him of being an “impostor lawyer sent to further the conspiracy and injustice the defendant believes is being perpetrated against him.”
Ellis faced a stack of charges including a hate crime, kidnapping and abduction and attacking an officer. All charges were dropped when the judge accepted the not guilty by reason of insanity verdict.
“I was fortunate to have met Mr. Ellis very soon after the incident, and I also heard promptly from his family and numerous coworkers and friends, so it quickly became apparent that this was a mental health breakdown, and that he was not some violent racist,” said Ritter. “The victim must have been utterly terrified, and I can assure you Mr. Ellis would have never wanted to be the source of that fright and pain for anyone.”
Ritter said that Ellis has been taking appropriate medication and is much improved.
Ellis has been an employee of the U.S. Army Food Management Information System at Fort Lee since 2008. He is currently on leave without pay and has been since the incident in May.