The disturbing case of a former Burke High School student’s near-fatal attraction plays out in court files in two ways.
One is a chilling surveillance video of a girl — having broken up with Nick Cisar months before — walking down a Burke hallway thumbing through her cellphone, unaware that her ex-boyfriend is lurking nearby.
In a video that a judge called “almost impossible to watch,” the next several frames show Lacey Paige, then 15, literally running for her life after Cisar sneaks up behind her and jams a knife into her back.
The other is in Cisar’s notes from the hospital after his attempt to take Lacey’s life and his own.
Unable to speak because he had slit his throat, Cisar spills a mix of regret, depression, angst and adolescence, repeatedly asking if his ex-girlfriend is OK and why he didn’t die.
Now the entire case will play out in juvenile court after a judge concluded this week that Cisar, 17½, should be tried there rather than in adult court over the Oct. 9, 2018, assault.
Douglas County District Judge Duane Dougherty’s decision sparked outrage from Lacey and her family, according to their attorney, Darren Pekny of Omaha.
"They're disappointed in the judge's ruling," Pekny said Friday. "They wanted it to stay in adult court based upon his age and the severity of the crime so, yeah, it's upsetting to them."
And to Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine.
“It’s shocking,” Kleine said. “I understand the court sometimes has a difficult job to do. But this is not a case that I anticipated would get transferred to juvenile court, especially when the defendant is 17½ and will age out of the system in a year and a half.”
In Nebraska’s justice system, juvenile court maintains jurisdiction over a defendant until age 19.
Cisar’s attorney, James Martin Davis, pushed for the transfer, noting that both a defense psychologist and a state psychiatrist had recommended that the case be handled in juvenile court.
In his six-page order, Dougherty relied heavily on the mental health professionals’ opinions. They noted Cisar’s lengthy personal and familial history of mental illness and suicide attempts.
Dr. Klaus Hartmann, a state psychiatrist at the Lincoln Regional Center, wrote that Cisar “has reasonable goals for the future and appears determined to follow through.”
Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates
Receive a summary of the day’s popular and trending stories from Omaha.com.
“He is considered to be rather fragile in view of his and his family’s history,” Hartmann wrote. “Placing him in an adult correctional setting would most probably be deleterious to him and amount to a major setback. ... He expresses considerable remorse as to what has happened.”
What happened played out in chilling detail on school surveillance cameras.
The video shows Lacey walking to the restroom from her ROTC class. She passes a teacher and scrolls through her phone, unaware that Cisar is lurking.
Backpack slung over his shoulder, Cisar walks down a hallway. He glances over his shoulder to make sure that one teacher isn’t watching him. He then stops at a water fountain to get a drink while another teacher approaches.
Cisar veers past the teacher, who is going the opposite way, and ducks into a doorway.
Lacey then circles out of the restroom. Cisar lets her pass.
He checks to make sure that the teacher is still going the other way before walking quickly toward Lacey. He puts his left hand on her neck, then uses his right hand to stab her in the middle of her back. She reflexively grabs the wound in her back and pivots to face him, then takes off running.
The video then shows Lacey furiously scrambling for her life. Off camera, she is stabbed two to three more times. Prosecutors say the three or four stab wounds to her midsection lacerated her liver and nicked her pancreas. She now has nerve damage and post-traumatic stress disorder, prosecutors say.
“This could have easily been a murder,” Kleine said.
Cisar’s scribblings from his hospital bed show his adolescent outlook on life, his disturbed state and a mix of distress over his actions and over the fact that he and Lacey are no longer together.
In missives to his mom, he wrote that it had been four months since “we broke up.”
On hospital stationery, Cisar wrote: “I loved her more then I loved myself and I couldn’t stand to see her get over me.”
Later, he asks if Lacey is in the same hospital. (She was.) He writes that he thinks he can hear her screaming. (There’s no evidence that Lacey was the patient he thought he heard.)
“Can she walk” he asks in his scribblings. “I’m scared I parilized her”
“Am I going to be in trouble
I miss her — the person I hurt
... I tried to hurt her very badly”
“I can’t stop replaying the memorie wishing I held her hand as we both bleed”
“I just want to be happy but I’m always sad She was the one thing that ever made me happy”
“Is my life and my friend’s life in jeopardy? Is she going to be traumatized for life”
“did you talk to my friends ... How long until i get my ps4 back”
“How many times did I stab her. Why did they save me? I tried to kill someone.”
That fact seemed to be lost in the experts’ opinions, Kleine argued.
The defense psychologist, James Mathisen, wrote that he “does not believe these incidents involved premeditation.”
Kleine noted that Cisar had been stewing about the breakup for months, that he brought a knife to school and that he was lying in wait in a hallway.
“I don’t understand how anyone can say it wasn’t premeditated,” he said.
Based on Mathisen and Hartmann’s testimony, Judge Dougherty concluded that the act was “inextricably intertwined with the defendant’s mental illness including, but not limited to, major depression.”
Dougherty noted that under state law, judges “shall” transfer the case unless prosecutors prove that it should be in adult court.
“The court acknowledges the issue of public safety being relevant ... but the court is not of great concern at this time about public safety,” he wrote. “The court further notes that this is a one-time incident.”
Kleine hopes so. He said he’s concerned about the limited amount of time that the juvenile court system will have to work with Cisar.
Dougherty wrote that the court recommends that Cisar “continue in secured detention, or at a minimum, supervision but does not find that, at this time, this is necessary beyond his age of minority.”
Long before the judge ruled, one party in the case had an opinion on whether he would be treated as a juvenile or an adult: Cisar himself.
“I think we all know where I’m gonna be,” Cisar wrote. “We just don’t want to admit it — I’m going to be locked up.”
1 of 60
A Nebraska driver was cited for painting a registration sticker on a license plate. Read more
Drivers in a road-rage incident were ticketed after SUVs caused $300,000 in damage to an Omaha college's building. Read more
Vandals caused over $50,000 damage at an Omaha Jewish cemetery. Read more
K2, a handmade tattoo machine and a smuggled cellphone were found during search of State Penitentiary. Read more
The Nebraska State Patrol found 68 pounds of marijuana in gift-wrapped boxes. Read more
Lincoln men went 158 mph on Interstate 80 with drugs in the car, Nebraska State Patrol said. Read more
A Wahoo man was charged with attempted murder after ramming police cruisers with semi. Read more
Thieves caused $25,000 in damage at an Omaha church for maybe $200 worth of copper. Read more
About 270 pounds of pot, 3,600 THC vape cartridges were found during a search after an I-80 traffic stop. Read more
'I want that truck off my lawn!' A 70-year-old Omaha man slashes tires, smashes lights in viral video. Read more
Video shows a La Vista police pulling a man out of garage after he tries to light himself on fire. Read more
Riding on the hood of a car, beer in one hand and cellphone in the other. What could go wrong? Read more
A man and woman killed two people before a Council Bluffs officer fatally shot the man, officials said. Read more
Animal control officers with the Nebraska Humane Society seized 163 birds in a raid in Bellevue. Read more
A La Vista man was out $500 after being paid with prop money used in movies. Read more
A former convict was charged with using a drone to attempt to drop marijuana into the Lincoln Correctional Center yard. Read more
A man walking home from work along the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge used a pocket knife to fight off two attackers, sending both to the hospital. Read more
An Omahan was scammed out of $4,800 after trying to buy College World Series tickets. Read more
The Montana man known as the “AK-47 Bandit” who robbed several banks in at least five states, including Nebraska, was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison. Read more
A mall security guard was arrested on suspicion of making terroristic threats after threatening to shoot at suspected shoplifters fleeing in a vehicle. Read more
Travis Fieldgrove, who had sex with a woman who was both his wife and his daughter, was sentenced to two years in prison. Read more
A 28-year-old Omaha man was accused of spanking a 2-year-old girl so hard that she suffered multiple internal injuries. Read more
A man walking in Lincoln was struck in the genitals by a bullet after he dropped a .22-caliber handgun and it discharged. Read more
An 18-year-old man who police say was driving a stolen car was fatally shot by a friend of the car’s owner in Council Bluffs. Read more
A Tecumseh, Nebraska, man shot two former co-workers after they forced their way into his home and tried to fight with him, according to the State Patrol. Read more
Nebraska State Patrol troopers arrested a California man who is accused of driving under the influence of drugs while driving 4 mph and, later, 147 mph on Interstate 80. Read more
A North Carolina man was arrested by Lincoln police after they say he attempted to kidnap a 14-year-old girl and take her to live with him in Wisconsin. Read more
A Shelton woman was driving north on U.S. Highway 281 when a man who’d been kicked out of another vehicle forced his way into her van. The woman, frightened by the man, took her infant and left the vehicle. But the suspect didn’t get far because the key fob remained with the woman. Read more
A staff member at the Tecumseh State Prison was attacked when an inmate’s cell door was mistakenly opened. Read more
More than 200 dead cattle and another 200-plus in questionable condition were found on property in Fillmore County, Nebraska, investigators said. Read more
The SUV of an Omaha woman was repeatedly rammed from behind in a Taco Bell drive-thru lane by a man who later got into the woman’s vehicle and drove it into the concrete base around a light pole. Read more
A 17-year-old boy was taken into custody after he took an unloaded 9 mm handgun to school, La Vista police said. Read more
A woman was injured after being put in the trunk of a car that fled police and crashed, police said. The woman had been reported abducted. Read more
A trip to Arby’s for lunch turned into a dangerous road-rage incident in Elkhorn when a driver got out of his car with a handgun and shot the tire on another man’s pickup truck. Read more
A 33-year-old man accused of leading Omaha police officers on a high-speed chase across the city had tried to run over officers, a prosecutor said, before the chase ended at The World-Herald building. Read more
A teenager was sentenced after luring a man for sex and fatally wounding him during a robbery. Read more
DNA helped lead police to man charged in a Guaca Maya slaying. Read more
A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran has been charged with revealing classified information to the government in Tehran, including the code name and secret mission of a Pentagon program, prosecutors said. Read more
A masked man shot a clerk inside the Bucky’s convenience store at 30th and Dodge Streets about 3 a.m. She was taken to the Nebraska Medical Center with an injury that wasn’t considered life-threatening. Read more
A 25-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound after he went to confront a 50-year-old man at his home. Read more
An Iowa woman has been charged with five felonies after authorities alleged that she stole $3,535 worth of pull-tab lottery tickets while she worked at a convenience store. Read more
A 33-year-old man accused of cutting his girlfriend with a sword was covered in blood when police arrived at a house in Lincoln. Read more
A parolee is back in jail after punching a man who was a Tinder date for his girlfriend’s friend, according to a court affidavit. Read more
A grenade found in a dumpster in southeast Nebraska was disposed of by Nebraska State Patrol troopers. Read more
A Lincoln man upset that his wife and a friend were talking too loudly as he was trying to get to sleep walked downstairs and pointed a gun at his wife, police said. Read more
DNA evidence led police to issue an arrest warrant in an unsolved 2013 slaying of a Ralston woman. Read more
An Omaha man was arrested after an investigation indicated he had allowed two adult pit bulls to starve to death. Read more
A standoff with Omaha police ended after a man fell off an SUV, where he had been standing and shouting. Read more
Law officers from multiple agencies converged in rural Nebraska on Monday after a man exchanged gunfire twice with officers and escaped from a traffic stop by stealing a sheriff’s vehicle. Read more
An Iowa woman who went to prison for sex with 17-year-old ward of the state said she feels shame and remorse. Read more
The former pharmacy director for Children’s Hospital & Medical Center accused of embezzling more than $4.6 million from the hospital pleaded guilty to wire fraud Monday in U.S. District Court. Read more
A 22-year-old man reportedly drove drunk to the parking lot of the Lancaster County Jail, where his vehicle was spotted weaving and driving over an island. His blood-alcohol content was .172, Lincoln police said. Read more
An injured, naked woman was found outdoors in midtown Omaha on Monday and taken to the Nebraska Medical Center, said Officer Phil Anson, a police spokesman. Read more
A woman has filed a police report accusing Steve LeClair, an Omaha firefighter and the president of the firefighters union, of assaulting her in November. Read more
A Nebraska woman who has been charged with incest told a police officer that she wanted to have sex with her father because of a competition with her half sister to see who could do it first. Read more
Omahan 'rings' in the new year in prison for theft of $629,000 wedding ring. Read more
A club basketball coach who promised weekends of tournaments, personalized jerseys and cookie dough for fundraising took parents’ money and didn’t deliver, authorities say. Read more
Omaha ended 2018 on a high note not seen for decades — no one was criminally slain in Omaha in the final three months of the year. Read more