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Ashland woman found guilty but insane for stabbing transient

An Ashland woman was sentenced to a state mental hospital after admitting Friday that she attacked a homeless man while under a "profound delusion" that her daughter was in danger.

Diana Lynn Zeman, 57, said in Jackson County Circuit Court that she had been suffering severe hallucinations early the morning of Dec. 16, when she stabbed Steven Denton with a knife as he walked from the Pioneer Hall emergency shelter toward the Ashland Plaza.

Zeman struggled to find an explanation for her psychosis to Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia, who sought to ensure Zeman understood the plea she was making.  She told Mejia she had either been slipped a hallucinogen or was suffering delusions that stemmed from thyroid disease.

"I do know I was hallucinating for a long time," Zeman said.

Paul Moser, Zeman's court-appointed defense lawyer, said the duration of Zeman's delusions lasted much longer than any controlled substance or intoxicant could influence her. He said she showed a marked improvement in her understanding of what was real after a psychiatrist at the jail placed her on a medication regimen.

"The difference was basically night-and-day after she became medicated," Moser said.

Moser said Zeman was operating under the "profound delusion" that her daughter had been kidnapped, sex trafficked and murdered when she attacked Denton with a knife. 

At about 3:45 a.m. that December morning, Denton fended off Zeman for a short period of time, but ultimately suffered multiple lacerations, none of them life-threatening, according to previous Ashland police reports.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Laura Cromwell, who prosecuted the case, presented an Oregon State Hospital report agreeing that Zeman was insane during the attack.

Zeman was sentenced to 20 years under the custody of the Oregon Psychiatric Security Review Board after being found guilty except for insanity on a felony charge of attempted murder. She will be sent to the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, which handles psychiatric cases.

"This was obviously a bad day for everyone involved," Mejia said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.