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Self-described 'soul collector' to plead

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. - A 42-year-old self-described "soul collector" who tried to cut off the toes and scalp of a former mayoral candidate is set to plead guilty to an assault charge Monday, a deal ensuring between seven to 13 years in prison.

Timothy Eugene Peterson was charged in Otter Tail County District Court with attempted murder in connection with his alleged attack Jan. 8 and Jan. 9 on Ivan "Skip" Mallas.

Court records show Mallas told officers that Peterson, a neighbor three doors down, came to his home and while stabbing a knife on the floor and chanting, he vowed to kill him.

"I have come to collect your soul, I own it, I am a soul collector, I want a souvenir," Mallas quoted Peterson as telling him.

Mallas told police Peterson then tried to cut off his toes and held the blade to his scalp and throat before pointing it at his chest, according to court records.

After tracking a blood trail to his home, police claim Peterson admitted Mallas' blood was on him but claimed the men had simply been wrestling.

Mental competency evaluations of Peterson found he was aware of the nature of the acts he's alleged to have committed and that he's mentally competent to assist in his own defense.

Judge Barbara Hanson agreed with the findings in a May 3 order, ruling out a mental illness defense.

In exchange for pleading guilty, the attempted murder charge against Peterson will be dropped, and he will plead guilty to first-degree assault, according to a plea agreement filed in court last month.

The plea deal, which still must be approved by Hanson, calls for Peterson to receive the sentence in the middle of ranges prescribed by state guidelines.

Those guidelines vary depending on his criminal history, which is assessed in a pre-sentence report by corrections agents.

At the lowest end of the scale, he would get seven years and two months. If he were deemed to have the most serious level of criminal history, he'd be facing 13 years and two months. Though he has a scant criminal record in Minnesota, online records show Peterson has convictions for assault and other offenses in Oregon and Washington.

Ryan Cheshire, an assistant Otter Tail County attorney, declined to comment Friday.

A phone message left for Peterson's attorney, David Phillipe, wasn't returned.