Books-A-Million stabbing suspect has history of violence and mental illness

John McFarland made his first court appearance in connection to the stabbing Wednesday morning.
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 1:07 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 22, 2022 at 7:45 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A man accused of a stabbing at the Tallahassee Books-A-Million has a history of violence and mental illness, according to records filed in the Duval County Clerk’s Office.

John McFarland appeared before a judge in Tallahassee Wednesday and was ordered to be held without bond on attempted murder charges.

McFarland is accused of stabbing a man inside the Books-A-Million on Thomasville Road Tuesday afternoon and then fleeing into the woods.

Newly released arrest papers say surveillance video shows McFarland walking into the store’s cafe, approaching a table of four elderly people, and stabbing a man from behind. The arrest papers say McFarland stabbed the man four times in the head and neck before walking out of the store and dropping the knife near Publix.

The probable cause affidavit says police officers saw him running behind a real estate office on the corner and ultimately held McFarland at gunpoint at the corner of Killearn Center Boulevard and Delaney Drive. The officer who wrote the report says the suspect identified himself as “John the Baptist McFarland.”

One of the officers, arrest papers say, say he matched the description of an “endangered, missing person” reported by the Apalachee Mental Health Center.

Leon County court records list McFarland’s address as 2634 Capital Circle NE, which is the Apalachee Center.

Jay Reeve, the President and CEO of the Apalachee Center, says federal privacy rules prohibit him from sharing specific details of any case. Reeve did not confirm whether McFarland was a patient there, but he did share some information about the center’s patient protocols.

“Apalachee’s protocol dictates that inpatient clients may not leave the facility on their own until discharge. Residential clients who have complied with program requirements are eligible for grounds privileges and in some cases time-limited passes to the community,” Reeve said. “Apalachee’s protocol also dictates that those who leave without authorization are reported to law enforcement as a missing person as soon as possible.”

Reeve did not comment on if or when McFarland was reported missing.

The judge at his first appearance indicated McFarland is on conditional release on felony charges out of Duval County right now and will face consequences there as well.

A check of court records in Duval County shows McFarland has a history of violence and mental illness dating back more than 20 years.

McFarland’s most recent arrest was in 2014, for stabbing an employee at a Walmart in Jacksonville. The arrest report in this case also says the victim did not know McFarland. He was later found mentally incompetent to stand trial and committed to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Duval County court records show McFarland has prior arrests for battery, domestic violence and aggravated battery in 2013, 2008, 2005 and 2001.

In the 2005 case, one of McFarland’s direct family members was the victim; his brother nearly died from the stabbing.

In three of those cases, including one in which he pulled a 9-inch knife on a city bus, McFarland was found “mentally unable” to stand trial and granted conditional release. In the other case, he was acquitted by reason of insanity.

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