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Judge Ruled Daniel Dewitt be Sent to Napa State Hospital for Mental Illness

Dewitt "lacks the capacity to make a decision about taking anti-psychotic medication" and could cause serious harm to himself and others.

With Contribution from the Bay City News

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 today 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 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 imaginary fiancé "Zoey," according to a police report.

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."

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

Christopher 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.

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."

Kezia Altuner April 14, 2012 at 02:24 PM
How tragic for both of these families! It's difficult not to believe that if the police had responded right away, perhaps two lives could have been saved. My heart goes out to the Cukor's and the Dewitt's.
Sabine Elser April 14, 2012 at 07:14 PM
This is such a sad story, terrible for all parties involved. I have a question though: what is the correct number to call in an emergency in Berkeley? I am a bit confused now. I recently got the advice to call (510) 981-5911 instead of 911 for the Berkeley Emergency line. Is that correct?
Hank April 15, 2012 at 12:18 AM
BPD is not there to protect us against violent crime. BPD was doing their REAL job that night, viz., making sure that the Occupy movement did not damage property as they proceeded peacefully up Telegraph Avenue. Had the victim of this crime been a poor person in a poor part of the city, little would have been made of this incident. The fact that it was a wealthy man living in a wealthy neighborhood, and that his family has the money to hire a lawyer and sue, is the only reason this incident has continued to attract attention. Members of the 1% should take this as a lesson for the future: we now live in a police state in which the police no longer EVEN work for the wealthy and powerful. Hank
Tanya Jo Miller April 15, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Hi guys, thanks for commenting. Sabine -- I will get back to you on your question after asking to the Berkeley PD Monday. At the community meeting where Chief Meehan spoke, they had the best number to call on a screen and I took a snapshot of it, but now of course when I need it it's fallen into the black hole.
Heather Wood April 16, 2012 at 05:28 AM
And Tanya, it's been made pretty darned clear in various media that calling 981-5900 or 5911 gets you to the same dispatch. I've called both numbers as I remember them, and gotten the same responses, depending on the situation. Calling 911 gets you to a dispatch in San Jose (I thnk) which then routes the call. So if one is in Berkeley, call 981-5911 if it's urgent.
Tanya Jo Miller April 16, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Good to know! Thanks Heather!!
Brad S. April 16, 2012 at 02:08 PM
From my understanding, both numbers will take you to the same police dispatchers; with a key exception... If you are calling from your cell phone, then 911 will route you to the CHP dispatcher, who will then need to route you to the Berkeley police. If you dial the 7 digit number you are routed to BPD directly from both the landlines and cellphones. I would imagine both numbers capture your locating information and provides it to the dispatcher, but I'm not sure about that. (I know the 911 number does).
Brad S. April 16, 2012 at 02:30 PM
@Hank, 1. BPD is here to protect and serve the public, which includes protection against violent crimes. However, unlike in the fantasy movie Minority Report, here in the real world the police cannot predict when such crimes will occur in advance. 2. You and I have debated this before: Some members of the group you referenced have caused property damage before. Just because it didn't happen that night could be attributed to the fact that there was stepped up police presence. In other words, would there have been a problem had the police not been present? We'll never know. 3. Perhaps you should call the BPD and see if you can do a ride along. You'd see they respond to all their calls: They don't ask for your tax records to see if you're rich or poor, first. Social news sites, such as this one, reported the news far sooner than the mainstream media. I don't think that the editors of the patch check tax records to see if a person is rich or poor. 4. This story is in the news and attracts attention is because it is important to members of the community. This is supported by the number of people that showed up at the community meeting. 5. To be in the top 1% (as of 2009) you'd have to make essentially $350,000/year. Just because someone lives in the berkeley hills doesn't mean they are the 1%.

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