The ‘Bad Thing’ That Drove One Laguna Blanca Student to Stab Another

Violent Delusions and Confession at Center of Attempted Murder Case

The Vides family home on the Mesa is where 18-year-old Cora stabbed a Laguna Blanca classmate with a switchblade she’d recently received for her birthday. | Credit: Courtesy

It was the “bad thing” that compelled 18-year-old Cora Vides to stab her friend in the neck, she confessed to police the night of the attack, a “bad feeling” that had taken hold of her and that she was “powerless” to control. Crying and covered in blood in the Cottage Hospital parking lot as her friend received emergency surgery inside, Vides promised responding officers she would tell them “everything they needed to know.”

That was among the testimony given by Officer Kelsea Shellenberger and others in the courtroom of Judge Von Deroian, who ruled this week there is sufficient evidence against Vides for her attempted murder case to proceed. Vides, out on $1 million bail, appeared for the preliminary hearing dressed in a black mask and checkered jacket and accompanied by her parents, Joshua and Patti Vides.

Both Cora and the victim were seniors at the private Laguna Blanca School at the time of the incident, mutual members of the art club and known to classmates and teachers as friendly, intellectual types who never partied or got into trouble. The victim, whose name has not been made public, suffered near-fatal wounds to her neck and throat but has since made a full recovery and is now attending college.

February 13, 2021, was like any other Saturday, Patti Vides told police, with the family, including Cora’s older sister and a cousin, spending a casual afternoon together before her sister returned to her UCSB dorm room and the victim arrived at their Mesa home for dinner. “Everything was fine,” Patti told officers.

What Patti didn’t know, what no one knew, was that for the two weeks prior Cora had been suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling that “something bad was going to happen,” Cora would later explain to Shellenberger. It manifested itself with “dizziness,” an “inability to focus,” and generally feeling “feeble.” She believed her extreme discomfort was inextricably linked to the victim and that if she killed her ― an action that was “inevitable” ― she would be released from it.

By 10 p.m. that night, Cora and the victim had retreated to her bedroom to watch TV and play video games. It was there they had a “heart-to-heart” conversation, Cora told Shellenberger. Cora, who had moved to Santa Barbara from Washington state two years earlier, confided in the victim that she had been severely depressed. The victim empathized with her, explaining her brother had also struggled with depression and that she herself had been diagnosed with ADHD. She discussed resources for help.

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Cora also came out to the victim as bisexual and explained her orientation may have contributed to a recent falling-out with a mutual friend. “Ms. Vides told me that [the victim] was very nice and said she was still her friend and that everything would be okay,” Shellenberger relayed in court. By the end of the conversation, both had “spoken about things they needed to” and felt “happy and good,” Shellenberger said.

It had grown late, approximately 2 a.m., and Cora asked the victim if she would like to meditate. The victim agreed and lay on the floor. Cora covered her face with a white sweater, ostensibly to block out the light but also so that the victim would not see what she was about to do. As Cora began the guided meditation, telling the victim to think positive thoughts and relax her body, she silently took hold of a switchblade she had recently received for her birthday and stabbed the victim “directly in the center of her neckline,” Shellenberger testified.

The victim immediately grabbed the knife, and a violent struggle ensued. “She really wanted to live,” Cora told Shellenberger, explaining the victim wasn’t able to speak but tried to make as much noise as possible to alert the household by knocking over a lamp, a fan, and a clock and throwing both of her shoes against the wall.

Just as Cora pinned the victim down, and despite the trauma to her trachea, the victim managed to find her voice and said: “Go get your parents. I need to go to the hospital. I will forgive you and I will still be your friend.” Those words were enough to release Cora from the “bad thing” ― “like coming out of a dream,” she explained to police.

Cora went upstairs to her parents’ bedroom and told them she’d hurt her friend. “I stabbed her in the neck,” she said matter-of-factly. Joshua and Patti rushed downstairs and saw the victim standing with Cora’s cousin near the front door, clutching her neck and struggling to breathe. They piled in two cars and drove to Cottage Hospital, where the victim was whisked to the emergency room. 

A nurse asked the victim who had hurt her. Unable to speak again, she managed to write “Cora V” on the nurse’s arm before her handwriting trailed off. Hospital staff called the police. Meanwhile, the cousin drove back to the home and used alcohol wipes to clean some of the blood from the scene.

During her interview with police at Cottage, Patti said her daughter had no history of violence. She acknowledged, though, that Cora had recently been suffering from mental health problems. She said the family was in the process of finding a therapist. 

Much of Cora’s conversation with Shellenberger took place while she was seated in the front passenger seat of the family car, before she and the officer eventually moved to a nearby bench. Cora grew cold from the victim’s blood that saturated her clothes, and she was offered a blanket. The two spoke for more than three hours. “We had a comfortable conversation, I would say,” Shellenberger testified. “She told me multiple times, ‘It’s okay, you’re just doing your job.’”

Cora’s defense attorney, Stephen Dunkle, noted multiple times during the hearing that his client was not read her Miranda rights during the interview. It was only after she was arrested at the hospital at approximately 6 a.m. that her rights were read. Dunkle also appeared to lay the foundation for a temporary insanity defense, asking the officers to reiterate a statement from Cora that she stabbed the victim “on purpose but not consciously.”

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Deputy District Attorney Kevin Weichbrod. All parties will appear back in Judge Deroian’s courtroom on Friday, September 10.

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