Judge Sends Suspect in Berkeley Hills Murder to Mental Hospital

Daniel Jordan Dewitt, 23, is charged with murdering Berkeley hills homeowner Peter Cukor two months ago.

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    Alameda County Superior Court Judge Sandra Bean said Dewitt "lacks the capacity to make a decision about taking anti-psychotic medication" and serious harm to himself or others could result.

    A judge ruled Friday that Daniel Jordan Dewitt, who is charged with murdering Berkeley hills homeowner Peter Cukor two months ago, should be sent to the Napa State Hospital to be treated for his mental illness.

    Alameda County Superior Court Judge Sandra Bean, citing the reports of doctors who examined Dewitt, 23, suspended the criminal case against Dewitt last month and ruled that he is mentally incompetent to stand trial.

    Bean said at a brief hearing Friday that Dewitt "lacks the capacity to make a decision about taking anti-psychotic medication" and serious harm to himself or others could result.

    Dewitt, who is being held without bail at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, is scheduled to return to court July 13 for a progress report.

    His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Brian Bloom, said after the hearing that there is a waiting list to get into the Napa State Hospital and it may take six to eight weeks for Dewitt to be placed there.

    Dewitt's parents, Al Dewitt Jr. and Candy Dewitt, have said that he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia about five years ago, around the time when he graduated from Alameda High School, where he had played football.

    Berkeley police say Cukor and his wife, Andrea Cukor, arrived at their home at 2 Park Gate Road, next to the Shasta Road entrance to Tilden Park, shortly after 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 18 and found Dewitt near their home, acting strangely.

    Dewitt said he was a psychic and was told to go through the Cukors' gate to find his fiancee named "Zoey," according to a police report.

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

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    Cukor called Berkeley police at 8:45 p.m. to report that there was an intruder but police didn't come until after his wife called a second time at 9:01 p.m. to report that Dewitt was attacking him with a flowerpot.

    Paramedics treated Cukor at the scene but he died shortly afterward. Dewitt was arrested a short time later near Cukor's home.

    Berkeley police Chief Michael Meehan defended his department's response to the situation at a community forum March 8 that was attended by about 200 people.

    Meehan said officers didn't go to Cukor's home right away because he called police on a non-emergency line and police had no way of knowing that Dewitt would attack Cukor because, "We don't know the future."

    Meehan came under fire after sending an officer to a reporter's home in the middle of the night to ask for story corrections after the community forum.

    Cukor's son, Christopher Cukor, 37, disputed Meehan's account of what happened, saying, "My father called the correct Berkeley police emergency number that is listed on their website."

    Cukor said, "We find this very disturbing, that a citizen's call for emergency help can go unanswered and leads to his death. Other citizens should be concerned, as well."

    Cukor was joined by his brother, 34-year-old Alexander Cukor, at a news conference in the office of Oakland attorney R. Lewis Van Blois.

    Christopher Cukor said his family hasn't decided whether to file a lawsuit against Berkeley police.

    Van Blois said, "Clearly the call was an emergency call and should have been responded to. This tragic death should not have happened."

    Van Blois released an unofficial transcript of Peter Cukor's call to police in which he said, "I'd like an officer up here right away" and described the intruder as being 6-foot-4.

    Christopher Cukor said Berkeley police should have told his father that his call wasn't being given high priority, saying, "All emergency callers should be told what priority they are being given so they can protect themselves while there are waiting."

    Andrea Cukor didn't attend today's news conference. Van Blois said she is still "devastated, as the entire family is, by this tragedy" and is too shaken to address the media.

    Meehan wasn't available for comment today, as an assistant said he wasn't in his office.

    Lt. Ed Spiller said in a prepared statement, "We don't have any new information to add to what we have already released. We remain committed to serving the Cukor family throughout these difficult circumstances."