LAS VEGAS – Police created a "human decoy," posing a mannequin like a sleeping homeless person, to catch a man they believe bludgeoned two men to death and injured a third in downtown Las Vegas.
They caught Shane Allen Schindler, who admitted Tuesday he attacked the mannequin with a hammer, thinking it was a real person.
Under his plea deal, Schindler faces eight to 20 years for attacking the mannequin — but he won't face charges in the Jan. 4 bludgeoning death of Daniel Aldape, the Feb. 3 killing of David Dunn and a Nov. 30 assault on a sleeping homeless man. At least part of the reason is a lack of evidence in those attacks.
"This is good for the community, that he's taking this deal," police Capt. Andrew Walsh, commander of the downtown area where the attacks took place, said Wednesday. "He's off the streets."
Schindler, 30, a former resident of Bay City, Michigan, remains jailed pending sentencing Aug. 24.
Walsh, who came up with the mannequin ruse, said it appeared clear that the deaths of Adalpe and Dunn were related. Both were attacked as they slept on the street and died of severe head injuries, although police couldn't say if a hammer was used each time. Neither had been robbed.
The man who was attacked in November also was hit in the head while he slept, but he never saw his assailant, Walsh said.
Prosecutors dropped a concealed weapon charge against Schindler relating to a 4-pound (1.8-kilogram) ball-peen hammer police said he used to bash the blanket-covered head of the mannequin.
Police watching on video swooped in to arrest Schindler immediately after the Feb. 22 attack on what prosecutors referred to in court documents as a "human decoy."
It had been placed by police in a normally deserted area of downtown Las Vegas in hopes of luring someone Walsh believed was a serial stalker of defenseless homeless people.
The plea deal also avoided a possible legal fight over whether it is possible to kill an inanimate object in a state where legal precedent appears to support the charge.
Laws in most states take into account what a defendant is thinking at the time of a crime, said Deborah Denno, a Fordham University law professor who was written about the legality/admissibility of decision-making by people who commit crimes.
"Most people would think you wouldn't get charged" for a mannequin attack, Denno said.
"This teaches us that criminal law really focuses on what's going through someone's mind," she said Wednesday. "That's what makes people dangerous and a threat to society."
In 1976 and 1989, the Nevada Supreme Court chose intent over effect when it rejected arguments about what justices termed "the niceties of distinction between physical and legal impossibility."
Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn wasn't available Wednesday to comment about Schindler's case. Schindler's court-appointed public defender, Ashley Sisolak, called the plea deal "tough but fair," and said it was in Schindler's best interest.