VISTA (CNS) – A man accused of stabbing a female stranger about 20 times during an apparently random attack in Oceanside was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on attempted murder and mayhem charges.
Hunter Parks Berger, 23, is accused of attacking the victim on June 20 as she was walking home shortly before 8:30 p.m. in the 500 block of Roja Street.
Testimony at Wednesday’s preliminary hearing indicated the defendant lived near the scene of the attack.
The 32-year-old victim was stabbed in the hands, arms and face, and sustained the most serious injuries to her hands. Some of Christina Sterling’s fingers were completely or partially severed and she will likely never regain the use of her left hand, according to testimony.
Oceanside police officer Andrew Davidson testified that he arrived at the scene shortly after the stabbing occurred. The victim told him she had never seen her attacker before and repeatedly asked something to the effect of “Why did he do this to me?”
Oceanside police Detective James Ferrer testified that a few days after the attack, he canvassed the area and was approached by the defendant’s roommate, who alleged that in recent days, he had mentioned wanting to murder his neighbors. Ferrer said the defendant’s girlfriend made similar statements indicating he had talked about murdering or hurting people. She told Ferrer she believed he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was not taking his medication.
Ferrer testified that investigators found a blood stain on a doorway in the defendant’s home, which was later identified as likely to belong to the victim, according to an analysis from a sheriff’s department criminalist.
The defendant, who was referred to throughout the hearing as Mr. Berger and not by the name Parks, was arrested June 25 and told Ferrer that he had been hearing voices on the day of the attack and later admitted that he “hit” the victim with a knife about 15 times, according to the detective’s testimony.
He also allegedly told police that after the stabbing, he had dumped the knife at Melba Bishop Park. Ferrer said officers searched the park, but were unable to find a weapon.
However, later the defendant said everything he’d admitted to was a lie, including an admission that he was wearing an orange shirt on the day of the stabbing, according to Ferrer. Surveillance footage captured an apparent suspect in an orange shirt fleeing the scene, and he told the detective that he’d picked up that detail from his girlfriend, who had been shown a photograph of the suspect by investigators.
Defense attorney Ricky Crawford argued that none of the evidence definitively pointed to his client as the assailant. Crawford said no witness has positively identified Berger as the attacker and said his roommate was not investigated for potential involvement despite having a “long criminal history” and voluntarily suggesting Berger was the suspect.
The defense attorney also said the defendant’s bedroom window provided a direct view of the scene of the attack and suggested his client may have learned details of the attack that way, been pressured by police to admit to the crime, with mental health issues also potentially playing a role.
The defendant is being held in lieu of more than $1 million bail and is due back in court Oct. 28 for a Superior Court arraignment.