A man accused of running over and killing a rest-stop worker at an Interstate 35 rest area in northeast Minnesota has been civilly committed to a psychiatric hospital.
After being evaluated by a psychiatrist, Gregory Allen Scherber, 55, had a Rule 20 hearing Sept. 13 at Carlton County Court. County Attorney Thom Pertler said Scherber was found to be mentally incapable of standing trial and was civilly committed to Anoka Regional Treatment Center — a secure, state-run facility — on an order of “restore to capacity.”
Scherber was charged June 21 with criminal vehicular homicide and fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, both felonies, in the June 19 hit-and-run death of Mahtowa rest-stop janitor Greg “Blackie” Blackburn, who also worked as a newspaper carrier for several local newspapers.
Pertler said the criminal charges against Scherber essentially are “on hold” until the defendant is mentally competent to stand trial.
According to the criminal complaint:
Witnesses at the rest area on northbound Interstate 35 said a pickup at one end of the vacant semitrailer parking lot accelerated rapidly toward the other end of the lot, where Blackburn was picking up garbage.
“The defendant’s pickup truck sped through the parking lot and over concrete medians as he approached the victim and ultimately struck the victim,” the complaint stated. “The witnesses reported hearing not only the squealing of the tires as the vehicle accelerated rapidly, but also described the pickup truck thumping as it went over the concrete median separators and ultimately the sound of the defendant’s truck striking the victim.”
It was shortly after the 911 call that Trooper Erick Sjodin — who was in the vicinity of Minnesota Highway 210 and I-35 — saw a blue Ford pickup matching the description of the vehicle from the rest area traveling fast on northbound I-35. Sjodin chased the vehicle on I-35 at speeds approaching 100 mph in heavy traffic. When the truck entered the construction zone near the St. Louis County border — where the highway narrows to one lane each way — the truck began passing traffic on the shoulder and hitting barrels and cones as it did so. It then exited the freeway at Boundary Avenue and drove through the city of Proctor, heading west on U.S. Highway 2.
Eventually Trooper Michael LeDoux passed Sjodin and was able to make contact and spin the truck out of control at Stebner and Arrowhead roads, where it came to rest in a ditch, the complaint said, after a chase that spanned nearly 25 miles. As the officers took Scherber into custody, the report states that he was agitated and yelling obscenities at the troopers, indicating the Native Mob gang was after him and the FBI had hung up on him earlier in the day when he called them regarding his complaints about being followed.
Page 2 of 2 - Scherber, whose address is listed as Duluth on the criminal complaint but who stated he lives in Minneapolis during his initial hearing, did not contest the civil commitment order, Pertler said.
“He has to remain there until he is able to stand trial,” Pertler said.
Defense attorney Sonia Sturdevant, who represented Scherber at the first court hearing after his arrest, said Scherber is an honorably discharged Navy veteran and noted he is disabled because of mental illness. Scherber now is represented by public defender Kevin Cornwell, who requested the Rule 20 evaluation of his client.