Murder suspect formally enters plea of not guilty by reason of mental defect

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - A Greene County judge ruled Monday that a former Missouri State University instructor may plead not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, excluding responsibility, for the murder of a former colleague last summer. The ruling means Ed Gutting will get more extensive mental exams than he’s already received.

Gutting is charged with breaking into Marc Cooper’s home in Springfield and stabbing him to death last Aug. 17. He’s also charged with injuring Cooper’s wife when she tried to stop him from attacking her husband. The reason for the attack hasn’t been revealed. Cooper was a retired MSU professor.

Gutting will be transferred to a facility in Kansas City. That's where the Missouri Department of Mental Health will administer exams.

Greene County prosecutors did not object to Gutting changing his plea from not guilty to not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, excluding responsibility. Both sides hired mental health experts to interview Gutting in the last 10 months. His defense attorney asked a judge several months ago for permission to enter that plea.

"We have a client that has had mental health issues in the past and has suffered from various diagnoses, and it is all now come to a point that a doctor that has examined him of some prominence in the area believes there is an issue,” defense attorney Joe Passanise said in an interview after a pretrial hearing on Monday afternoon.

Mental exams for Gutting could take up to six months. Circuit Judge Tom Mountjoy scheduled another hearing for August to check on the status of those exams, but only the defense attorneys and prosecutors will have to be at the hearing, not Gutting himself.

If a judge or jury ultimately accepts Gutting's plea, he would be confined to a mental institution instead of a prison.