Man gets away with allegedly killing humans, but faces prison for ‘murdering’ a mannequin

A 30-year-old Nevada man pleaded guilty Tuesday in a highly unusual case of a hammer attack on a mannequin.

As reported by the Associated Press, Las Vegas police used a mannequin, posed as a sleeping homeless person, as a decoy to capture the individual believed to be a “serial stalker” of homeless people in the area. 

On February 22, Shane Allan Schindler, formerly of Bay City, Michigan, was arrested immediately after bludgeoning the mannequin with a hammer.  The attack was also caught on police video.

During the legal proceedings, Schindler admitted that he attacked the mannequin, thinking that it was a real human being.  Under the plea agreement, he faces eight to twenty years in prison.  However, he will not face charges in the two actual murders and a third assault which prompted local police to resort to such an unorthodox method of crime-fighting.  According to the AP report, this is at least partly due to the lack of evidence in the three earlier attacks.

Police believed the murders of Daniel Adalpe on January 4 and David Dunn on February 3 were related. Both deaths resulted from severe head injuries after the men were attacked as they slept on the same street corner. Neither man had been robbed. 

In an earlier assault on a sleeping homeless man, the victim was hit in the head but did not see the perpetrator.  In that case, the victim survived the attack. 

Captain Andrew Walsh of the Las Vegas Police praised the unconventional method that brought the murder suspect to justice.

“This is good for the community, that he’s taking this deal. He’s off the streets.”

The plea deal allowed authorities to avoid the onerous legal burden of proving the possibility of killing an inanimate object, which Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn previously called a “legal impossibility.”

However, Nevada legal precedent appears to support the charge. In 1976 and 1989, the state’s Supreme Court chose intent over effect in two cases (Darnell v. State and Moffett v. State, respectively) by rejecting arguments about what justices called “the niceties of distinction between physical and legal impossibility” in the earlier case.

In the 1980 case, the justices’ opinion included the note:

“An act done with intent to commit a crime, and tending but failing to accomplish it, is an attempt to commit that crime.”

Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor who has written about the admissibility of decision-making by alleged perpetrators, told the Associated Press on Wednesday:

“This teaches us that criminal law really focuses on what’s going through someone’s mind.  That’s what makes people dangerous and a threat to society.”

Schindler remains jailed as he awaits his sentencing hearing scheduled for August 24.

Feature photo: Associated Press