St. Louis' 'Samurai Killer' Found Not Guilty Due to Mental Illness

Seth Herter, 34, told the RFT the victim, Christopher McCarthy, was his former partner

click to enlarge Seth Herter with his mother, Margie; Seth Herter's booking photo. - Courtesy Margie Herter and St. Louis Police
Courtesy Margie Herter and St. Louis Police
Seth Herter with his mother, Margie; Seth Herter's booking photo.

Seth Herter, 34, the so-called Samurai Killer, was acquitted of first-degree murder, armed-criminal action and two counts of stealing due to mental illness last week. The docket suggests the decision was an agreement between prosecutors and defense attorneys, and was then approved by St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Timothy Boyer.

Herter was committed to a mental hospital on Thursday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

On May 3, 2018, Christopher McCarthy, 55, was found fatally stabbed in Herter's apartment's blood-soaked bathroom in St. Louis' North Hampton neighborhood.

Herter told the RFT that he'd known McCarthy for several years but by another name, Tim Wilson. He also said they'd dated.

Herter was diagnosed with mental illness in his 20s. At the time of McCarthy's death, Herter says he believed he was the Antichrist. Herter had initially called McCarthy to his apartment in the 3300 block of Hereford because he thought people were in his walls and furniture.

Police found McCarthy's blood spilled across the tile floors and spattered against the walls, his lifeless body covered with cuts. Also in the apartment: a samurai sword.

The next day police apprehended Herter at the Colonial Inn in High Hill, Missouri, along with McCarthy's 2015 Chevrolet Equinox.


Herter was the subject of a 2018 cover story by Doyle Murphy. Murphy was able to interview Herter in prison after Herter was given anti-psychotic and mood-stabilizing drugs and stopped believing he was the Antichrist. He told Murphy he'd fallen prey to numerous delusions.

"I got a hairshirt and everything," Herter told Murphy from prison. "I believed so many crazy things."
click to enlarge The blood-smeared bathroom in Herter's apartment was a horror movie come to life.
The blood-smeared bathroom in Herter's apartment was a horror movie come to life.

Last Friday, Murphy reacted on Facebook to the news of the insanity verdict: "For me, his case really hammered home how broken our mental health safety net is. Seth's family could see he was going to an extremely dark place and found what many families find — there was basically nowhere to turn for help. I will always remember Seth pleading through a jailhouse phone: 'Please tell people I'm not a monster.' He wasn't, but I will remember for the rest of my life the gruesome consequences of a broken system."

Herter had become known around St. Louis for dancing on Hampton Avenue south of 44, often at Chippewa. One commuter filmed Herter dancing and posted the video on the internet.


The story got a little notice and Herter, who was dancing to show the world that he was the Antichrist, took this as confirmation of his powers.


Reporter Ryan Krull talked to Herter's mother, Margie Herter, a few months ago. She was hoping for a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity verdict.

"I think a mental hospital is definitely the place where Seth needs to be," she told Krull.

Criminal defense attorney Brian Cooke told Krull in May that a verdict of not guilty due to mental illness would not mean that Herter would soon walk free.

“Where there’s a dead body, I think it’s not unrealistic to expect the person to be held for a substantial period, if not for the rest of his or her life.”

About The Author

Rosalind Early

Rosalind is the editor-in-chief of the Riverfront Times. She formerly worked for Washington University's alumni magazine and St. Louis Magazine. In 2018, she was selected as a Rising Leader of Color by the Theatre Communications Group. In 2014, she was selected as an Emerging Leader by FOCUS St. Louis. Her work...
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