Editor’s note: This story appeared exclusively for subscribers in the paid and print edition of the Urbana Daily Citizen on Wednesday, Nov. 1.
Six people gave testimony during an amenability hearing in the case of Donovan Nicholas on Tuesday, Oct. 31.
Nicholas, 15, is charged with one count each of aggravated murder and murder in connection to the April 6 homicide of Heidi F. Taylor, 40, the live-in girlfriend of Nicholas’ father. A court statement filed by the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office stated Nicholas allegedly stabbed Taylor an unknown number of times before shooting her.
Judge Lori Reisinger said Tuesday’s proceedings were to determine whether Nicholas is amenable to rehabilitation in the juvenile court.
Previously, a motion by the Champaign County Prosecutor’s Office was filed seeking to transfer the case to the general division of the Champaign County Common Pleas Court. Due to the finding of probable cause and Nicholas’ age at the time of the offense an amenability hearing was required as well as an amenability evaluation before the court decides if the case would be bound over.
No action was taken during Tuesday’s proceedings on moving the case to the adult court.
The first witness called to testify by Champaign County Prosecutor Kevin Talebi was the Champaign County dispatcher who took the 911 call from Nicholas following the incident when he advised he killed Taylor but also stated a person named Jeff, who he stated is inside him, stabbed and shot her.
During the questioning of the dispatcher, Talebi presented the court with an audio CD containing the audio from the 911 call. As the 911 call was played, Nicholas held his hands in front of his face, often looking down at the desk at which he was sitting.
Talebi then called Champaign County Sheriff’s Detective Glenn Kemp to testify. Kemp recounted interviewing Nicholas in the emergency room at Mercy Health-Urbana Hospital on April 6.
Within this interview, Kemp said he learned Nicholas returned home from school that afternoon and after waking up from a nap, the Jeff personality – sometimes referenced as “Jeff the Killer” during Tuesday’s hearing – took over.
Kemp said Nicholas took an object to slice around his face creating an exaggerated smile. Kemp also spoke about the events which led to the death of Taylor.
When speaking further on Jeff, Kemp said Nicholas indicated he had dealt with him for three months, that Jeff was homicidal and the only person he wanted to hurt was Taylor.
Following a recess to ensure that a recording of Kemp’s interview had been provided to Nicholas’ attorney Darrell Heckman, Talebi next called Champaign County Sheriff’s Detective Josh Welty to testify.
Throughout much of this testimony, Welty was asked by Talebi to identify and describe a number of photos taken from Nicholas’ residence following the incident ranging from items of evidence to injuries Taylor sustained.
Welty also reviewed a postmortem examination report of Taylor which stated she sustained a significant number of sharp force injuries along with the gunshot to the head.
Following the testimony of the three witnesses for the state, Heckman provided an opening statement saying Nicholas suffers from a severe mental illness called dissociative identity disorder. Heckman stated with the proper extensive medical treatment, Nicholas could return to society around his 20th birthday.
Heckman called Dr. Daniel Hrinko to testify, who provided the findings of two evaluations he was requested to perform in June including an amenability evaluation.
Hrinko provided a detailed account of Nicholas’ family structure and mental health history.
In describing dissociative identity disorder, Hrinko said the disorder is a multiple personality disorder where a person has two or more personality states. He said dissociative identity disorder is a relatively rare disorder seen with people in their mid-20s but is especially rare in adolescents.
Based on evidence he collected, Hrinko said when Jeff is in charge he behaves differently than Nicholas. Hrinko noted that in September 2016, Nicholas started liking the Jeff personality but the change in behavior was not evident until January.
When asked about the possibility of Jeff being contrived, Hrinko said Nicholas would have had to develop this personality long ago. Hrinko cited examples of how Nicholas was different when Jeff was in control through writings in a notebook, text messages and instances where Nicholas referred to himself in the third person.
Hrinko discussed the extensive treatment which would need to be done to rehabilitate Nicholas.
Talebi questioned Hrinko about the rehabilitation process and whether dissociative identity disorder was something that was curable or treatable. Talebi also questioned if any cases or articles Hrinko reviewed on the disorder dealt with a person involved in a homicide.
Following Hrinko’s testimony, a minor who knows Nicholas and Sarah Book from the Ohio Department of Youth Services also testified.
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s proceedings, Reisinger said a memorandum was filed by Heckman and ordered that Talebi has until Nov. 13 to respond to this document.