Judge concerned Stanford official might take LSD again and have ‘another freakout’

James Shirvell, 26. Photo from Stanford website.

A Stanford admissions official, after consuming LSD, stabbed his girlfriend numerous times with a kitchen knife in their San Francisco home, leaving her with stab wounds and a collapsed lung, court documents revealed yesterday (March 6).

James Shirvell, 26, is being held in the San Francisco County jail without bail following his arrest Sunday (March 3). When he gets out, Stanford said he will not be returning to work in the admissions office or anywhere on campus.

During an arraignment yesterday in San Francisco Superior Court, Shirvell’s attorney, Eric Safire, acknowledged that the victim’s injuries were severe but called the stabbing an “isolated incident and really an anomaly.”

Prosecutor Courtney Burris described the stabbing as an “unprovoked random attack on his partner,” and asked Judge Rita Lin to change Shirvell’s bail from $1 million to no bail.

“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, who is currently hospitalized.

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 a home in the 500 block of Kansas Street. Both had taken LSD together at some point before the stabbing.

When officers responded at 12:25 a.m. Sunday 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.

Trail of blood, 8-inch knife

Officers entered the home and found Shirvell lying on the kitchen floor covered in blood. They saw a trail of blood next to him that led 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.

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.

In court yesterday, several of Shirvell’s relatives and friends showed up and Judge 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.

‘Possessed by another force’

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.”

Shirvell pleaded innocent yesterday to charges of attempted homicide, domestic violence, assault with a deadly weapon and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury.
Shirvell is employed as an assistant director of admission at Stanford.

“Mr. Shirvell has been placed on leave and will not be coming to campus or performing any admissions work,” Stanford spokesman E.J. Miranda said in an email. “We are continuing to gather information on this matter to inform next steps.”

Outside of court, defense attorney 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 full-time 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.

— From staff and wire reports


  1. How do people like this get jobs in places that supposedly have high standards, like Stanford? And what about the applicants he sat in judgment of? Shouldn’t their applications be reviewed by another administrator in light of this?

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