Suspect in Kmart shooting pleads insanity
An insanity plea was entered Friday, Dec. 5, for the man suspected of killing a Kmart security guard in Ramona in 2007 and being involved in an earlier bizarre sword attack upon a homeless man in a creek bed that also occurred in Ramona.
The murder trial of Andrew Nicholas Griffith, 29, of Scripps Ranch, was reset for April 13, 2009. Griffith is charged with the July 21, 2007, slaying of David Busby II, 32, who was shot to death after he tried to stop Griffith from taking $86 worth of merchandise from Kmart without paying for them.
“I plead not guilty by reason of insanity,” said Griffith to El Cajon Superior Court Judge Herbert Exarhos.
Busby, a sailor, was moonlighting as a security guard to help support his wife and toddler who lived in Julian. Many people donated funds to his widow and son following his death.
Exarhos appointed two psychologists to examine Griffith in jail and issue reports to the judge. The trial, which had been set for Jan. 20, was delayed because of the insanity plea, said Deputy District Attorney Gordon Davis. This will give time for the doctors to interview Griffith and time for the prosecution to also prepare.
Davis said he did not know of any psychiatric illness or history that Griffith may have. However, the sword attack against Steven Lowe, 34, on June 16, 2007, is bizarre. Lowe testified he was in the Santa Maria creek bed in Ramona when he saw Griffith swinging a sword and cutting tree limbs as he came towards him.
“Calm down, Samarurai warrior!” Lowe said he yelled to Griffith.
Griffith is accused of slashing Lowe on the arm near his shoulder. Lowe testified he ran away and flagged down a sheriff’s deputy.
Months later, Lowe was in jail himself and he recognized Griffith as his attacker, and contacted authorities. Griffith is charged with assault with a deadly weapon against Lowe.
If Griffith is found to be insane, he could be committed to a state mental hospital for life. In general, juries tend to find defendants to be sane during a crime unless there is a long history of documented mental illness by doctors before the crime was committed.
Griffith is being represented by his third attorney, Knut Johnson, who could not be reached for comment. Griffith had been represented by different public defenders, but his family paid to retain Johnson in August just before his trial was to have started. It was delayed again so Johnson could prepare his case.
Griffith is also charged with the special circumstance of murder during a robbery and burglary of the Kmart store. If convicted, he faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
He is also charged with attempted murder of a second security guard, Finauga “Fred” Tili, possession of a firearm by a felon, and attempting to escape arrest after deputies brought him to the Ramona sheriffs station.
Griffith remains in the downtown central jail in lieu of $250,000 bail.
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