Shakopee decapitation killer deemed not guilty, mentally ill

The man who decapitated his partner in broad daylight in a Shakopee neighborhood two summers ago was deemed not guilty of murder because of mental illness. A ruling not sitting well with the victim’s family.

Alexis Saborit, 42, was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder in court on May 11 in the death of 55-year-old America Thayer. However, Judge Caroline Lennon ruled on Saborit's mental competency on Monday, citing in part psychologists determined "[Saborit's] mental illness prevented him from understanding his actions were morally wrong," the order reads. 

Warning: The following details of this case are disturbing.

According to the charges, someone called 911 after seeing a man, later identified as Saborit, throw a headless body out of a car at the intersection of 4th Avenue and Spencer Street around 2:30 p.m. on July 28, 2021. When officers arrived, they found Thayer’s body lying on the ground next to the car with her head lying next to her. 

Officers found what appeared to be a sheath for a large knife in a nearby yard. They found a knife in a trash can in an alley in the area. Officers located Saborit a short distance away from the scene and took him into custody. 

The indictment reveals Saborit allegedly told a friend just days before the murder, "I’m going to chop her f---ing head off" and then laughed. Saborit also told investigators Thayer was threatening to leave him, so he killed her with a knife to her neck. 

The judge’s findings 

Saborit was initially charged with intentional second-degree murder but was later indicted on first-degree murder. Saborit waived his rights to a jury trial in January 2023, and the judge issued the verdict in the case on May 11.

Saborit and his attorney have claimed mental health issues throughout the court process. But in the judge’s initial finding of facts, she listed evidence that he made deliberate decisions the day of the attack, including the weapons he used.  

"[Saborit] used both an 8-pound dumbbell and machete during his assault. [His] decision to put down the dumbbell and use the machete is evidence of a deliberate mental thought process," the judge wrote.

However, the defense filed a motion in court on July 12 stating Saborit should be found not guilty by reason of mental illness because both the court-appointed and state-issued psychologist determined "[Saborit's] mental illness prevented him from understanding his actions were morally wrong."    

The order discusses Saborit's history of mental illness, including his hospitalizations for "bizarre delusions" as early as March 2013. He suffered a traumatic brain injury after being in a coma from a car crash in 2017 and began experiencing auditory hallucinations and paranoid delusions. 

After the crash, he was hospitalized in May 2020 for believing there was a camera in his head after the crash and everyone could hear what he was thinking, according to court records. He was also diagnosed with various mental health disorders, including manic psychosis and delusional disorder, among others. 

The defense argues since no expert testimony or evidence challenged the psychologist’s opinions he was mentally ill at the time of the crime, he should not be held criminally liable. 

The judge sided with the defense and issued a ruling for not guilty by reason of mental illness on July 17. The judge ordered him Saborit to remain in Scott County Jail until he can be transferred to another facility. 

He is scheduled to make an appearance in court Tuesday afternoon.

Victim's family dismayed

"It is tough to understand how somebody can commit cold-blooded murder, plan to do it, tell everyone they’re going to do it, have a motive to do it, and then somehow be considered insane," Charles Thayer, son of America Thayer, told FOX 9’s Paul Blume at the Scott County courthouse on Tuesday.

In his victim impact statement, Charles Thayer detailed the history of mental, emotional, and physical abuse he said his mom suffered for years at the hands of Saborit. The abuse ultimately ended in the gruesome murder just blocks from the courthouse.

The family believes Saborit should rot in prison. Doctors though, concluded he was mentally ill, and District Court Judge Caroline Lennon agreed, finding he cannot be held criminally responsible for what happened.

"I just don't know what world or society we are living in anymore," said Charles Thayer. "I just want this to be over with, for myself and my family."

Charles Thayer came to court with a large photo of his mother taken years ago. When it was time for him to deliver his victim impact statement, he set the picture right in front of Saborit, who appeared to have no reaction.

"He wouldn't look at it," Charles Thayer said. "He didn't make any eye contact at all. He is obviously very ashamed of what he did. He killed the only person in the world that cared about this guy."

Charles Thayer and his loved ones are in disbelief over the court ruling finding Saborit not guilty of the brutal murder due to mental illness. On July 28, 2021, Saborit decapitated America Thayer with a machete, killing her in front of witnesses in broad daylight.

The couple had a long, turbulent history of domestic violence. Charles Thayer reports no matter what happened, no matter how badly Saborit hurt his mother, she would go back.

"This is your typical tell-tale abusive man controlling a relationship for many, many years. And I cannot even tell you how many times the cops were called for him beating the crap out of her," Charles Thayer explained. 

"Unfortunately, that is a very common pattern for victims of abuse," added Christie Larson, a domestic violence advocate for Southern Valley Alliance of Scott and Carver Counties. "They attempt to leave multiple times before it actually happens. And unfortunately, in this case, America was murdered before she was able to get out safely from that relationship."

Larson also gave a victim impact statement, detailing how America Thayer’s murder had a chilling effect on the community.

Two doctors found Saborit suffered from psychotic disorder, and was motivated by paranoid delusions.

"The words being said that he is not guilty. You know, I get it. He is not going to walk out of jail today, and he will probably be in a hospital for maybe forever, a really long time. But hearing the words not guilty to murdering my mother, it is really hard for me to understand."

Saborit will remain in custody without bail as new civil commitment proceedings immediately begin.

The state will look to ensure he remains in a secured hospital setting for years to come, but legal experts report that he may walk out of there someday in the future.