Man who stabbed trucker found guilty, ordered to mental hospital

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line staff writer | 4/15/2015

A California man has been sentenced for his role in a bizarre crime-spree that included ramming a stolen vehicle into a semi-truck and repeatedly stabbing the trucker.

Dustin Leroy Rotter, then 28, of Modesto, Calif., pleaded guilty except for insanity to attempted murder in connection with the Aug. 25, 2014 incident in which he stabbed trucker Charles Van Zante 27 times. The case was in Malheur County Circuit Court of Oregon. In exchange for pleading guilty to attempted murder, the state agreed to drop the other charges Rotter was facing, and to place him in the custody of the Oregon State Mental Hospital for up to 20 years.

Van Zante, 64, of Jerome, Idaho, said he was hoping for a different outcome.

“No, I wasn’t (happy with the outcome), and I told the district attorney that,” he said in a phone interview with Land Line on Monday. “He said that’s understandable. … The outcome that came, I can’t change it, but I didn’t have to go back to the court room and face the guy again. I don’t know how I would’ve reacted if I’d had to see him face-to-face.”

According to a report from The Argus Observer, Rotter was remanded to the custody of the Oregon State Mental Hospital for up to the next 20 years. The report states that two doctors who evaluated Rotter, who reportedly has a history of both mental illness and of not taking his medications, found him to be insane.

Van Zante was transporting a load of milk on Interstate 84 near Ontario, Ore., last August, when the incident took place. Rotter, who was driving a stolen Buick, began ramming the car into Van Zante’s fuel tanks, prompting the trucker to pull over to the shoulder.

“The first time he hit me, I’m looking down there like ‘what in the heck is the matter with you, dude?’” he said. “I just kept going, kept pulling, because I don’t know what’s going on. And he does it three times.”

After the third hit, Van Zante said he pulled over and set the brakes. Rotter stopped his vehicle near the dual tires on the tractor, opened his car door, and ran to the cab of the truck.

“I looked in the mirror and I can see him coming, and I remember thinking ‘This ain’t looking good,’” he said. “I was (reaching back) looking for a milk wrench I carry in my bag, and I didn’t get the door locked. The door swings open and the kid jumps in and straddles me… then he stabs me with a Leatherman (utility knife), right between my heart and my right breast. He just kept stabbing at me.”

The two men scuffled in the cab, with Rotter continuing to stab Van Zante multiple times, before Van Zante was able to get him in a headlock long enough to open the passenger side door of the cab. Both men tumbled out and down to the ground.

Van Zante said he managed to scramble around to the highway side, where two men in a pickup truck finally stopped and came to his aid. Rotter then tried to escape by stealing the truck before he was eventually subdued by the men and another trucker who stopped to help until police arrived.

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