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UCLA student is charged with attempted murder in attack

He is accused of stabbing a classmate five times and slashing her throat in a premeditated and unprovoked attack in the chemistry lab.

October 14, 2009|Andrew Blankstein and Robert Faturechi

A UCLA student allegedly stabbed a classmate five times and slashed her throat in a crime that prosecutors said Tuesday was premeditated and unprovoked.

Damon Thompson, 20, was charged with one count of attempted murder in Thursday's attack in a chemistry lab in Young Hall.

If convicted, he could face life in state prison with the possibility of parole.

Thompson pleaded not guilty and was ordered held on $3-million bail by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Keith L. Schwartz after prosecutors argued that the Belize native was a flight risk.

Defense attorney Robin B. Berkovitz described her client as a hard-working biochemistry major with no criminal record.

She said his mother flew in from Belize and his father came from out of state to attend the arraignment at the Airport Courthouse in Westchester.

"I was assigned to the case today. There is a lot of information that has yet to be presented," Berkovitz said Tuesday. "It's a sad situation for all parties involved."

Despite initial reports that there had been an argument between the suspect and victim, prosecutors said the attack was unprovoked and that Thompson pulled out a knife and began stabbing the victim for no apparent reason.

Authorities said the victim, identified in court as Katherine Rosen, 20, suffered five stab wounds and a slashed throat.

Rosen was taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in critical condition but has been steadily improving, doctors said.

"Our patient is now out of the intensive-care unit and out of danger -- and she is in good condition," said Dr. Henry Gill Cryer, the hospital's chief of trauma surgery.

UCLA professor Stephen Frank, who taught Thompson in his Western civilization class, said he told a university administrator 10 months ago that he was concerned about Thompson's mental health after receiving e-mails from the student.

In the e-mails, Frank said, Thompson complained to him that classmates sitting near him had been disruptive and made offensive comments to him while he was taking a written exam.

In one of the e-mails, Thompson also accused Frank of taunting him.

"I believe I heard you, Professor Frank, say that I was 'troubled' and 'crazy' among other things," Thompson wrote in the e-mail. "My outrage at this situation coupled with the pressure of the very weighted examination dulled my concentration and detracted from my performance."

Frank denied Thompson's claims and told administrators the e-mails indicated that Thompson was in need of help. Frank said he was told that other professors had reported similar exchanges with Thompson.

Rosen is a junior majoring in biochemistry, according to her Facebook page.

Elizabeth Turner, a teacher at South Torrance High School, where Rosen graduated, described her as an excellent student and musician.

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

robert.faturechi@latimes.com

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