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Gone mad

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They could've been killed -- either by the wreck or by a naked man who caused it and physically assaulted them. William and Linda Windham of Benton are still waiting for justice almost half a year after a bizarre incident on I-49.

The attacker admits to a history of smoking synthetic marijuana, but denies he was using it on that day in December.

Internet videos show synthetic marijuana users launching into psychotic episodes. Sometimes they act afraid. Others are irrational and violent against others. They may strip naked, possibly to cool their burning internal body temperatures. And the effects can come quickly. Less then one minute after lighting up, a man is seen going into zombie-like trance.

There was a crazy incident involving a man police say was possibly high on synthetic marijuana on I-49 in Shreveport in December. Witnesses say Weston Ericson of Mississippi was driving wildly fast and rear-ended a car in front of him. Jason Scott avoided the wreck, then couldn't believe what he saw in his rear view mirror.

"I said, 'Oh my God, this guy's completely naked,'" Scott remembers, as he watched the naked Ericson attack the couple he crashed into, William and Linda Windham of Benton.

"The guy's naked on top of me trying to choke me," Mrs. Windham said. "I started screaming."

"He was cussing. Said he was the devil," Mr. Windham added.

Jason Scott says he knew Ericson must have been high.

"It's a true zombie. It's a true zombie," Scott remembers thinking. "This guy is literally trying to eat somebody, or rip them to pieces."

So Scott, who once suffered a serious mountain biking injury, used his wooden walking cane to beat Erickson and save the Windhams.

"I hit him over seventy, a hundred times with this cane," Scott said, looking at his cracked and still blood-stained cane. "It was wild."

Another eyewitness shot cell phone video, showing Scott stalking Ericson, stopping him when he tried to attack other motorists stuck in the wreck. Eventually, Ericson was beaten down and police got there to take him away.

Four days later, Ericson was arrested again back home in Mississippi. The Bay St. Louis newspaper says he had another violent episode, and police found an empty packet of Mad Hatter, one of many forms of synthetic marijuana, packaged by many names like K2 and Spice. They're sold in some stores under the guise of bath salts, incense, or potpourri.

"It's very dangerous, not only to the general public but also to the person who is consuming this," says Shreveport Police Corporal Marcus Hines. "It's also very dangerous because you have no idea what is being put into this stuff."

While Ericson was sent to the hospital for mental evaluations after both incidents, the Windhams' Cadillac was totaled. Warren's arm is in a sling from surgery to repair his rotator cuff that he injured while trying to fight Ericson off his wife. Linda suffered her own mental scars.

"There were nights I couldn't even sleep just thinking about him coming after us," she says.

"It was a nightmare," Mr. William added.

The Windhams have personally thanked Jason Scott for coming to their rescue.

Ericson faces a list of charges -- battery, obscenity, careless driving, and DWI. Police say they smelled alcohol on his breath. Blood test results are still pending. And almost half a year after the incident no court date is set.

KTBS 3 News reached Ericson by phone from his home in Diamondhead, Mississippi. He admits using synthetic marijuana before -- but that he had not smoked it for a month before the incident in Shreveport. He blames his actions on I-49 on a reaction to anti-depressants he'd been taking for a list of mental illnesses.

"I didn't know what I was doing at the time. It came back to me later on," Ericson says. "I remember parts, bits and pieces later. But it wasn't anything I felt like I was in control of."

Ericson says he'll plead temporary insanity. And he says the empty packet of Mad Hatter at his home must have been his friend's.

States and the federal government have outlawed synthetic marijuana. And Cpl. Hines with the SPD says they see less of it now. But it still shows up in some shops. Hines says the SPD cracks down with special operations.

So what is synthetic marijuana? It's an herbal mixture that produces experiences similar to marijuana. But it does not contain THC, which produces a high from pot. Instead, dried, shredded plant material is mixed with chemical additives to produce mind-altering effects.
 

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