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Judge Says Berkeley Murder Suspect is Incompetent to Stand Trial

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Thursday March 22, 2012 - 09:30:00 PM

A judge ruled today that Daniel Jordan Dewitt is mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges that he murdered Berkeley hills homeowner Peter Cukor last month. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Sandra Bean based her ruling on reports by two doctors who examined Dewitt, 23, saying, "I adopt the findings of the alienists." 

Bean said, "It appears that the defendant (Dewitt) is incompetent at this time." 

Dewitt, who didn't appear in court today, is being held at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin. He's scheduled to come to court on April 13 to be placed in a state mental hospital. 

Dewitt's lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Brian Bloom, said Dewitt most likely will be placed at the Napa State Hospital. 

Bloom said the finding that Dewitt is incompetent to stand trial suspends the criminal case against him but doesn't dismiss the charges against him. 

Dewitt could still face a trial at some point in the future if he responds well to treatment and is found to be competent, Bloom said. 

Dewitt, who graduated from Alameda High School in 2007 and is the grandson of former Alameda City Councilman Al Dewitt, is accused of killing 67-year-old Peter Cukor outside Cukor's home at 2 Park Gate Road at about 9 p.m. on Feb. 18. 

According to a probable cause statement filed in court by Berkeley police Detective David Marble, after Cukor told Dewitt to leave his property Dewitt "said he was a psychic and he was told to go through the front gate to find Zoey." 

Cukor, who owned a logistics consulting firm, walked across the street to a Berkeley fire station to see if firefighters could help him deal with Dewitt but no one was there because firefighters were out on a call. 

Marble said Dewitt then killed Cukor with a flower pot when Cukor returned to his home. 

Dewitt was arrested nearby and "admitted that he was looking for his fiancee Zoey," Marble wrote. 

But Dewitt's father, Al Dewitt Jr., said Dewitt doesn't have a girlfriend named "Zoey" and that Zoey is only a figment of his imagination. 

After today's hearing, Al Dewitt Jr. said, "I'm not happy but I'm relieved," explaining that he's still concerned about his son but is glad he won't face a trial at this time and will be getting treatment. 

Bloom said Daniel Dewitt "suffers from a real serious medical illness" and will finally get "meaningful treatment" at a state hospital. 

He said Dewitt has refused to take his medication while he's been at Santa Rita but doctors at a mental hospital can force him to take his medication if they deem that it's necessary. 

Bloom said, "It's a horrible shame that he didn't get treatment before" the incident in which Cukor was killed. 

Al Dewitt Jr. and his wife, Candy Dewitt, who is Daniel's mother, said in a statement that, "Our hearts go out to the Cukor family" and, "We cannot find words that say how deeply saddened we are." 

The Dewitts said, "We also grieve for our son Daniel whose life is forever changed by actions he cannot understand and who is so very ill." 

They said, "If you do not have someone in your life with mental illness, it would be hard to imagine what it is like to watch helplessly as your son loses his life to such a devastating disease as paranoid schizophrenia and with little ability to make a difference given our current mental health system and laws." 

The Dewitts said, "In the last months, as Daniel became increasingly ill, he could only whisper to us through his apartment door. He feared people could hear him. He thought people were following him, watching him, poisoning him. He could not sleep." 

They said, "It was horribly painful to watch, to know and to see what he was going through and not be able to bring him any real help." 

The Dewitts said, "This is the same bohat he was going through and not be able to bring him any real help." 

The Dewitts said, "This is the same boy who loved fishing, played endlessly in the fields as a young boy making forts, catching lizards, riding biky who loved fishing, played endlessly in the fields as a young boy making forts, catching lizards, riding bikes and later was an all-league football player, a talented writer and a passionate music lover." 

Saying that their son was in and out of the hospital the last four years, they said, "Unfortunately, the system did not allow Daniel to receive the involuntary treatment that would have helped him because of the qualifications for an involuntary hold, which are being an imminent danger to self, to others or gravely disabled."