Homicide suspect’s trial delayed for mental health assessment

Rashad Sisemore/Staff

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An Alameda County judge delayed the trial Thursday for homicide suspect Daniel DeWitt by a month so the suspect can be assessed for mental competence.

Though 23-year-old Alameda resident DeWitt was not present at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland Thursday, his attorney Brian Bloom asked the court to grant the time necessary to allow DeWitt to be seen by two doctors.

Judge Sandra Bean ruled for the trial to resume on March 22 at 9 a.m.

Thursday’s court proceedings were DeWitt’s second in two days, following an appearance Wednesday, where Bean read the charges filed against DeWitt.

The charges include felony murder and use of a deadly weapon, referring to the ceramic planter with which DeWitt allegedly bludgeoned 67-year-old Peter Myron Cukor in the Berkeley Hills on Saturday.

According to Bay City News, Berkeley police Detective David Marble wrote in a probable cause statement filed in court that DeWitt told Cukor “he was a psychic and he was told to go through the (Cukors’) front gate to find Zoey.”

Outside the courtroom Wednesday, Al DeWitt Jr. said his son had a fictitious girlfriend for over a year who he called “Zoey,” which is consistent with DeWitt’s history of mental illness.

The Oakland Tribune reported that Candy DeWitt, Daniel DeWitt’s mother, said her son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 18. Though she continually tried to commit her son to long-term psychiatric care, he was continually forced out of care after he took his medication and started acting rationally, she told the Tribune.

“I have tried to write letters to judges, to victims’ rights advocates, to prosecutors and begged and pleaded for them to help my son,” she told the Tribune. “But there was no help. It is a system where these people just go in and out, in and out.”

The homicide allegation against Daniel DeWiitt is not the first criminal accusation he has faced.

DeWitt is also scheduled to appear in court on March 6, 2012 for an alleged battery against a nurse at John George Psychiatric Pavilion in December 2010.

Staff writers Sam Buckland, Sarah Burns and Jonathan Tam contributed to this report.

Weiru Fang covers Berkeley communities.