An Indian American man who fatally bludgeoned his sleeping father was found not guilty Feb. 28 of second degree murder by reason of insanity.
On the morning of Feb. 15, 2014, Vinayak Shanbhag, 36, repeatedly beat his father, Pandurang Shanbhag, with a sledgehammer in the family’s home in the Holly Hills neighborhood of Daytona Beach, Florida. He later confessed to police that he had an argument with his father the previous evening, while they were playing puzzles.
Shanbhag, who was his high school valedictorian, was initially charged with attempted first degree murder, but later charged with second degree murder after his father died of injuries related to the brutal beating.
At the sentencing Feb. 28, Circuit Court Judge Terence Perkins noted that three experts presented by Shanbhag’s defense attorney concluded that he was insane.
Perkins remarked that Shanbhag had a history of mental illness, including psychotic episodes, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder.
Perkins did not sentence Shanbhag to a mental institution, but instead remanded him to his home, where he will be visited once a week by a case worker. He must also take a monthly injection of Invega, a drug that controls schizophrenia.
“He did not know what he was doing, or did not understand that what he was doing was wrong,” said Perkins at the sentencing.
Shanbhag still reportedly lives in the family home. He told officers when he was arrested in 2014 that he had committed violence against other family members in the past.
But Perkins – referring to testimony from expert witnesses – noted that Shanbhag currently posed no danger to himself or anyone else.
Florida Managing Assistant State Attorney Shannon Peters told India-West that state law requires a person to be dangerous to himself or others before he can be committed to a mental institution.
“All three experts who examined him agreed that he was not manifestly dangerous to himself or others. Shanbhag did not qualify for involuntary commitment to a mental institution,” said Peters, adding that prison was also not an option.
Shanbhag will be living with his mother and sister in the family home. Peters noted that both advocated for Shanbhag during the legal proceedings. Prosecutors do not have a legal basis to appeal the sentence, she said.
Pandurang Shanbhag, 63 at the time of his death, was a chemistry professor at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black university in Daytona Beach. On the morning of the violent attack, Rukma Shanbhag found her husband profusely bleeding in his bedroom. She told police she went to check in on him at 6 a.m. – the couple did not share a bedroom as Pandurang suffered from arthritis, according to media reports – when she heard him coughing heavily.
According to police reports, there was blood all over the bedroom where Pandurang’s body lay prone, and a bloody sledge-hammer was left in the bedroom. He was taken to the Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, and died eight months later from wounds he had suffered during the attack.
Rukma Shanbhag told police that her son told her he did it. Police found him sitting on a sofa with his mother as they began their investigation.
Vinayak Shanbhag told police that he had been playing puzzles with his father the previous evening, and that his dad told him something which really upset him; he did not elaborate.
Shanbhag said he thought about the conversation all night, and decided in the morning to attack his father.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that Shanbhag had a record of academic success, graduating from high school at age 15 and serving as the class valedictorian. He was accepted to both Tulane and Emory universities, but chose instead to attend Bethune-Cookman, where his father was a professor.
As an undergraduate, Shanbhag and three fellow researchers discovered an enzyme responsible for maintaining healthy tissue in humans. The extremely-significant discovery was published in the scientific journal Biochemistry and Molecular Biology International.
It is unknown what Vinayak Shanbhag did professionally after he graduated in 2000.