The Hall of Justice building at 850 Bryant St. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Stanford employee pleads not guilty to attempted murder of girlfriend in alleged drug-fueled stabbing

A Stanford employee arrested Sunday in San Francisco has been charged with attempted homicide for allegedly stabbing his girlfriend while under the influence of LSD, San Francisco prosecutors said.

During his arraignment Wednesday, James Shirvell, 26, pleaded not guilty to the attempted homicide charge, as well as charges of domestic violence, assault with a deadly weapon and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury.

According to court documents, Shirvell stabbed his girlfriend numerous times with a kitchen knife at a home in the 500 block of Kansas Street early Sunday morning around 12:25 a.m. Both had taken LSD, a hallucinogen, together at some point before the stabbing.

In court, while arguing for his release, Shirvell’s attorney Eric Safire recognized that the victim’s injuries were severe but called the stabbing an “isolated incident and really an anomaly.”

Several of Shirvell’s family and friends showed up to court and Judge Rita Lin allowed some of them to give statements on his behalf.

One statement was in a letter from the victim, Shirvell’s girlfriend, who remains hospitalized for stab wounds and lacerations to her shoulder, arm, back, face and head. She also suffered a collapsed lung, according to court documents.

In the letter, which was read by the victim’s mother, the victim said Shirvell had “pure intentions” but that night he was “possessed by another force.” She also called the incident a “horrific accident.”

Prosecutor Courtney Burris described the stabbing as an “unprovoked random attack on his partner,” and asked Lin to allow a no bail status for Shirvell.

“How can I be sure that he is not going to take LSD again and have another freakout,” Lin said to Safire, before agreeing to hold Shirvell without bail.

Lin also issued a protective order, mandating that Shirvell stay away from the victim.

According to court documents, Shirvell and the victim had dated for a year and a half and had been living together for about six weeks at the Kansas Street home.

When officers responded Sunday morning to a report of domestic violence there, they learned the victim had run to the home’s front steps and shouted for help, while bleeding profusely.

When officers entered the home, they found Shirvell lying on the kitchen floor covered in blood and next to a trail of blood leading to an 8-inch knife.

After detaining Shirvell and hospitalizing the victim, investigators found out that after the couple allegedly took LSD, Shirvell began acting strangely. When the victim went to get him water, Shirvell suddenly walked to the kitchen, grabbed the knife and allegedly began stabbing her repeatedly.

Despite being badly injured, the victim was able to call for help.

At the home, investigators were able to recover the knife thought to be used in the attack and a clear yellow plastic bag containing small papers believed to be LSD.

Shirvell is employed as an assistant director of admission at Stanford, and has been placed on leave, university officials said.

Outside of court, Safire said, “He’s got a degree from Yale University. He’s been employed with Stanford University for the past two years on a permanent fulltime basis. He’s had no prior contacts with the court and has lived an exemplary life.”

He added, “My personal opinion is that it was the result of some adverse drug reaction. There’s nothing in his history that indicates any reason for any kind of psychotic break. I think it was a bad acid trip, but I’m no professional, but that’s what it appears to be.”

Shirvell is set to appear in court again on March 13.

-Daniel Montes, Bay City News

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