Witnesses describe scene of Watertown sword attack

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Witnesses describe scene of Watertown sword attack

By Katie Crowther. CREATED Jun 20, 2014

WATERTOWN -- A Watertown man claiming to be God is accused of killing his neighbor with a sword.

Young Jae Choi, 29, is charged with murder. Detectives say he attacked Dustin Vanderheyden, 27, in a boarding house above Yanger's Bar in Watertown.

Neighbors describe hearing the screams, seeing the blood, and then being confronted by Choi, waving a huge sword.

"I heard screaming from my door, and when I peeked my head out, and saw the victim drag himself across the hallway floor into his room," says Eric Pann. "I saw Choi holding a bloody sword, and his hand was cut. He came up behind me and asked me, who's God? I said you're God, and I ran down the hall to call 911."

Another neighbor heard the commotion from downstairs. "I started hearing someone cry for help and I ran upstairs," says David Gerard. "I saw a man standing over another, hitting him with a sword. Just striking him with it over and over again."

Gerard tried to pull the sword away from Choi, but suffered a cut on his hand. In fear for his own life, he ran downstairs to Yanger's Bar to get help.

"I had seen him around the boarding house before," Gerard says. "The way he acted, I thought he was drunk all the time. He was always talking to himself."

Pann says Choi also boasted about having swords. "He gave a smaller sword to another neighbor here, but it was half the size of the one he used in the attack."

These neighbors say they knew Choi was unstable, but they never knew he was capable of murdering a friend.

"The victim and his wife were spending a lot of time with Choi, trying to clean up his room, and make sure he had everything together," Pann says. "They knew he needed help. There was definitely an indication he wasn't right. But none of us really understood the full degree of his mental condition."

Watertown police needed a negotiator to coax Choi out of the boarding house and into their custody.

During questioning, Choi told officers to call him God, and said he did not feel bad about the stabbing. He claimed the universe made him do what he had to do.

The police report says Choi told the victim's wife he wanted to be with her, and would hurt her husband to make that happen.

Choi is being held on $1 million cash bail at the Jefferson County Jail. He has no attorney and plans to represent himself, according to court records. 

Katie Crowther

Katie Crowther

Katie Crowther was born and raised the suburbs of Detroit. She attended John Carroll University, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.