M.U.M. murder trial set to begin Tuesday

The Fairfield Ledger/June 3, 2005
By Erik Gable

More than a year after Maharishi University of Management student Levi Butler was stabbed to death with a paring knife in the university's dining hall, the man charged with killing him is about to stand trial.

Shuvender Sem, 25, will go on trial beginning at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Jefferson County Courthouse. Because Sem waived his right to a jury trial, the case will be heard by Judge E. Richard Meadows.

Sem, who was a student at M.U.M. when the killing occurred, faces one count of first-degree murder and one count of assault for allegedly stabbing another student with a ball-point pen earlier the same day.

He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

According to court documents, the trial is expected to last two days. On the evening of March 1, 2004, Fairfield police officers responded to a report of a stabbing at Annapurna Dining Hall on the M.U.M. campus. When they arrived, they found Butler, an 18-year-old freshman from California, bleeding from stab wounds to the chest.

Butler was taken by ambulance to Jefferson County Hospital, where he died from his injuries. Sem, a transfer student from Pennsylvania who had been on campus for about six weeks, was arrested and charged with murder.

After the attack on Butler, police learned of another incident that had occurred earlier the same day. During a class that afternoon, Sem allegedly stabbed fellow student John Killian in the face with a ball-point pen. According to police reports filed at the time, the wound required seven stitches to close.

Joel Wysong, the university's dean of men, took Sem into his custody after the attack on Killian and began making arrangements to send him home. Sem later left Wysong's apartment. In an interview with The Ledger, Wysong said he went to the dining hall, where he found Sem and took a seat about 30 feet away to keep an eye on him. After about 10 minutes, Wysong saw a commotion. One student was restraining Sem while others tried to help Butler and dialed 911 on their cell phones. Wysong led Sem away from the scene.

Sem appeared calm when police arrived and was taken into custody without incident. He was booked into Jefferson County Jail and bond was set at $1 million.

Sem was originally represented by a court-appointed attorney, Les Lamping of Washington, Iowa, but his family later hired Alfredo Parrish, a well-known lawyer from Des Moines.

The trial has been delayed by questions about Sem's mental state. In June 2004, his attorneys said they heard him ask a jail employee for a notepad because he was hearing voices and wanted to write down what they were saying. The attorneys also said Sem was confused, apparently believing he was in a hospital in his hometown of Lancaster, Pa.

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