A Fridley man with a history of civil commitments for mental illness and chemical addiction was sentenced Tuesday to 40 years in prison for beating and stabbing his girlfriend in front of his 2-year-old nephew in her St. Paul apartment in 2020 .
The sentence imposed by Ramsey County District Judge Kellie Charles on Terrion Sherman was a significant departure from sentencing guidelines and the legal maximum for a second-degree intentional murder conviction.
Sherman, 27, had waived a jury trial and the judge found him guilty in August of the brutal murder of 21-year-old Abigail Simpson, a graduate of West Bend High School in Wisconsin who was attending college full-time in St. Paul to have a plan to become a lawyer.
Sherman faced a presumptive sentence of just over 27 years in prison under state guidelines. However, Charles ruled that “cognizable, substantial and compelling reasons” justified the upward departure. She said Sherman treated Simpson particularly cruelly, stabbing her 32 times in the face, scalp and neck – all in front of a child.
“This is one of the extremely rare cases where a sentence equal to the maximum permitted by law is not only warranted but warranted,” Charles said in the courtroom.
The “sad and horrific story of events” began with Sherman’s “voluntary use of synthetic marijuana, which resulted in the death of Abigail Simpson,” she said.
She expressed her condolences to Simpson’s family.
“I know this is no comfort to you,” she said, “and there is nothing I can do or say here today that will bring her back. But their love and memory lives on through you and with you. And I’m sorry that I only got to know her through the tragic events that bring us here today.”
Simpson’s parents sat in the courtroom while her sister watched the hearing remotely via Zoom. They chose not to read the victim impact statements they filed in court this month.
Before explaining his reasons for leaving, Charles allowed Simpson’s parents to leave the courtroom, sparing them from hearing the graphic details of their daughter’s murder.
“Extreme and outrageous”
St. Paul police officers were called to Simpson’s apartment on Pierce Street, south of Interstate 94 and west of Snelling Avenue, shortly after midnight on February 26, 2020. A man who lives in the building had called 911 and reported, “Some guy is hitting…” “I heard he was his girl right now” and that he heard him say, “He’s going to kill someone,” Charles noted in their judgment from August.
As officers went upstairs, they heard stomping and a man saying, “Stay down or I’ll kill you,” while Sherman’s 2-year-old nephew was crying, according to the criminal complaint.
Police heard Sherman order the boy to “step on Ms. Simpson’s head, which was followed by a loud thud,” Charles said Tuesday.
When no one answered the door, an officer kicked in the door. Sherman stood in the living room covered in blood while Simpson lay motionless on the floor, not breathing.
Sherman’s nephew stood just inches from Simpson’s “lifeless, naked, bruised and bloody body,” Charles said. The officers’ body-worn cameras showed the “little boy covered in blood spatter, in a state of shock, horrified by what was happening around him.”
Simpson was beaten so severely that her teeth were broken, and when Sherman arrived at the hospital, he believed one of her teeth might still be stuck in his fist, Charles said.
She called the murder “one of the most extreme and egregious murder cases I have ever encountered, and is significantly more gruesome than the conduct typically associated with the crime of second-degree premeditated murder.”
Sherman broke a rear window of the patrol car that was transporting him after his arrest and said he was high on drugs, prompting officers to put him in an ambulance that took him to Regions Hospital in St. Paul for evaluation.
While at the hospital, he made comments about “hitting the dog” and “cutting her head off,” but was eventually medically cleared and taken to police headquarters, the complaint states.
He told investigators who asked him if he was taking medication that even though he was prescribed some, he didn’t take it because “(I’m) not crazy,” the complaint states.
Sherman told investigators who questioned him after his arrest that the boy was “possessed like a dog” in Simpson’s Merriam Park apartment and that the boy told him that Simpson was “really a guy,” according to the report Complaint. He said he blacked out and didn’t remember stabbing her.
Consumption of synthetic drugs
Sherman took up two criminal cases in August 2018.
The first count was fourth-degree assault against a peace officer who lit a shoe on fire on a neighbor’s patio and then spit on a St. Paul police officer, the indictment says. The resident who reported the incident told police Sherman was a “K2 user who frequently causes problems in the neighborhood.” K2 is a synthetic form of marijuana.
Nine days later, he punched two employees at a Family Dollar store in Maplewood who tried to stop him from stealing, according to the complaint charging him with first-degree aggravated robbery.
The proceedings were put on hold after judges determined he was unfit to stand trial due to mental illness. In October 2018, he was civilly classified as mentally ill and a chemical addict and began treatment at Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.
Court records show Sherman was temporarily released from the state hospital in May 2019 and placed in a Fridley home.
After Simpson’s murder, Sherman’s sister told investigators that her brother had used K2 while he was on leave from his dorm because the substance didn’t show up in urine tests, according to court documents.
She added that she would be concerned if he used the synthetic cannabinoid because “he does crazy things and has incoherent conversations,” court documents said.
Investigators found a small bag of K2 at the crime scene.
The trial was stayed in 2020 after Sherman was civilly deemed mentally ill and dangerous and incompetent to stand trial. He was found responsible for the trial in January 2022.
Daughter, sister, aunt
At Tuesday’s sentencing, Ramsey County Assistant Prosecutor Hannah Prokopowicz acknowledged that “the road to get there is really long.”
“It’s been three years since (Simpson’s) family had to endure the ups and downs – and especially downs – of this process,” she said.
Prokopowicz noted that Sherman has filed several new charges since the murder while incarcerated either in a secure treatment facility or in the county jail. These include criminal threats of violence and bodily harm against employees of St. Peter’s Hospital. According to other charges, Sherman threw a chair at a prosecutor in a Ramsey County courtroom last November during a hearing before Judge Charles in which she stated he was competent to stand trial.
Prokopowicz spoke about Simpson before asking Charles to give Sherman the maximum punishment possible.
“She was a daughter, a sister, an aunt,” she said. “She was an outstanding athlete. She had goals and ambitions and worked hard to achieve them despite some obstacles. These memories of Ms. Simpson, who she was and undoubtedly would be, should not be tainted by what Mr. Sherman did to her that night.”
Charles called Simpson’s parents back into the courtroom for the sentencing.
“I will ensure that Mr. Sherman remains seated in the courtroom during the sentencing because of past issues,” Charles told the courtroom.
She then imposed the prison sentence and indicated that Sherman would receive credit for the 1,337 days he has spent in locked facilities since the murder.