Revisiting Truly Bizarre Bismarck North Dakota Kidnap/Murder Case
January 2022 the North Dakota Supreme Court has denied a convicted killer's appeal claiming he suffers from mental illness. Honestly, he seems to be a pretty solid mental illness candidate to me.
Sometimes there is an incident in the news that's almost impossible to believe.
It was a decade ago in July 2012, when we in the region were introduced to John Clark Bridges and a most bizarre chain of events that eventually lead to the death of Lee Edward Clay just east of Bismarck on Interstate 94.
Bridges claimed a dream he had in Fargo compelled him to kill or be killed.
(Bridges) said that on the night before the incident, he had been in Fargo, and he had a dream that made him suspicious of Mr. Clay and the other individual, and he said that he decided he was going to come back to Bismarck and kill them both," Special Agent Tim Myers testified.
Upon returning to Bismarck with murder on his mind, John Clark Bridges testified that he bought zip ties, duct tape, and a knife all from various locations so as not to raise any red flags about his intentions. He had planned to kill two men but could only find Lee Edward Clay. At knifepoint, Bridges coaxed Clay into his van. He proceeded to zip-tie and duct tape Clay's feet, hands, and mouth. Bridges, with Clay now bound in the back of his van, set off to return to Fargo.
Then this story literally goes off the road.
While driving Bridges noticed that even while bound, Clay was able to find a hatchet in the back of the van. Clay swung the weapon at Bridges who then stabbed the victim multiple times with a knife. During the altercation, the van swerved off Interstate 94 and into the ditch. In an attempt to break his neck, Bridges struck Clay's neck with the hatchet.
Law enforcement arrived at the scene and one would think initially assumed the injuries were incurred from the crash. Clearly, upon further review, Clays' injuries were not at all consistent with a vehicular accident. Bridges was taken into custody. In a court case where he chose to defend himself, Bridges pled guilty to murder and kidnapping. Bridges was given a life sentence. The next year Bridges was given another 40 years for possession of contraband and stabbing a correctional officer at the ND State Penitentiary.
In 2021 Bridges continued his appeal of the conviction based on his mental health.
Today the North Dakota Supreme Court denied his appeal. This is from the Associated Press...
John Clark Bridges argued in his appeal that mental illness prevented him from understanding the charges against him, aiding in his defense or filing a timely application for relief.
The justices ruled in part that Bridges had not presented evidence establishing that he suffers from a mental illness.
I'd argue John Clark Bridges certainly suffers from a mental illness of some sort but I'd also argue that a lifetime of incarceration seems like a fit punishment and a justified protection for society.