A man once convicted of murder for beheading his girlfriend and dumping her body on a busy street two years ago in Shakopee has now been found not guilty by reason of mental illness.

The ruling Monday by Scott County District Judge Caroline Lennon clears the way for Alexis Saborit, 44, of Shakopee, to be moved from jail and civilly committed indefinitely to a secure hospital run by the state Department of Human Services (DHS).

Before horrified onlookers on July 28, 2021, Saborit first struck America M. Thayer, 56, with an 8-pound dumbbell and then decapitated her with a machete at the intersection of 4th Avenue and Spencer Street.

Had Lennon rejected Saborit's claim of mental illness, the first-degree murder conviction from May would have stood and he would have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Saborit now has an outside chance at freedom, should he someday be deemed by the DHS to no longer be mentally ill. He is likely on his way to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, which treats the state's most psychiatrically complex and dangerous patients.

A message was left Tuesday afternoon with the County Attorney's Office for its reaction to the ruling, which was previously on record as rejecting the contention that Saborit was mentally ill when he killed Thayer.

Lennon based her ruling Monday on the findings of two doctors who interviewed Saborit, and who reviewed his psychological history and police records associated with the killing.

Saborit has experienced "intermittent episodes of severe psychosis and some mania since at least 2018," the judge wrote in her order. "Defendant's psychotic episodes have been characterized by agitation, pressured speech, insomnia, disorganized thinking, auditory hallucinations, and entrenched paranoid, somatic and/or bizarre delusions."

Lennon set aside the prosecution's argument that Saborit might have been faking mental illness in order to be spared dying in prison.

One of the examining doctors "found little indication that [Saborit] was sophisticated enough to successfully feign disorganized thought processes and other symptoms of mental illness for an extended period."

As further evidence that Saborit was not putting on an act, the judge added, "It must be noted that [his] symptoms of psychosis and his delusional beliefs continued for several weeks after his arrest."

In conclusion, Lennon found that Saborit "was experiencing genuine symptoms of psychotic disorder on the date of the offense [and] was suffering from mental illness to the extent that it prevented him from understanding the moral wrongfulness of his actions during the alleged offense."

Saborit's conviction by Lennon followed a ruling that he was mentally competent to stand trial. The defense then challenged that finding, setting the stage for the judge's ruling Monday.

Thayer and Saborit had been in a tumultuous relationship over 12 years. His criminal history in Minnesota includes a domestic assault conviction for attacking Thayer in 2017 and pinning her to the ground because he thought she had talked to another man at a bar.

At the time of the attack, Saborit had a court hearing in Scott County on charges of setting fire to the couple's apartment during a confrontation with police in Shakopee. According to the charges, officers confronted Saborit on Nov. 9, 2020, after he had been at the Pullman Club and was smashing car windows outside with a baseball bat. At one point during that standoff with police, he brandished a machete, which he ultimately threw to the ground.

Friends said Thayer emigrated from Cuba and told them she attended high school in Minnetonka. Besides her son, who lives in the state, she had a sister in the southern United States.