An Oakland man with a history of mental illness who is accused of beating to death a 67-year-old Berkeley hills man last month is not mentally competent to stand trial and will be committed to a state hospital for treatment, a judge ruled Thursday afternoon.
Daniel Jordan DeWitt, 23, was not in court Thursday. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Sandra Bean said lawyers will return to court April 13. At that time DeWitt will officially be committed to one of three state hospitals for treatment, his public defender Brian Bloom said.
DeWitt has been charged with one count of murder in the beating death of Peter Cukor, a business management consultant. That charge will be suspended while he is treated, said Bloom.
The goal of treatment will be to restore him to mental competency so he can stand trial, said Dave Cook, an Alameda County deputy district attorney familiar with the issues around mental competency.
DeWitt's parents, who were present at Thursday's hearing, said they have attempted to visit him and send him care packages at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, but he has refused both.
"He's totally shut down," said his father Al DeWitt, and is not interested in taking medication when it is offered.
The DeWitt's issued a statement following the hearing expressing regrets for their son's alleged actions.
"Our hearts go out to the Cukor family," the statement says. "We cannot find words that say how deeply saddened we are. A man's life has been taken and now there is a family that is left with terrible suffering. We are so very sorry."
In their statement they said they tried everything they could to get their son help. In the months leading up to his alleged crime, the DeWitt's said he would only whisper to them through his apartment door and he thought people were following him, watching him and poisoning him.
"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 is) an imminent danger to self or others."
The DeWitt's said their son was released from an unspecified treatment program by a hearing officer in December "against our stated wishes and against a doctor's recommendation for continued treatment."
The statement concluded by saying, "This tragedy did not need to happen."
DeWitt was arraigned last month on one count of murder for beating Cukor to death with a ceramic pot. He is being held without bail, and Bloom said it could take up to three months before he is transferred to one of the state hospitals.
On the night of Feb. 18, DeWitt probably walked from Oakland to Cukor's house, Berkeley police said. When Cukor encountered him he said he was a psychic and was told to go through Cukor's gate to find his fiancee named "Zoey," minutes before the attack, court records say.
Police said Cukor first called them at 8:47 p.m. to report a man in his garage. Police did not respond because they were getting ready to monitor an Occupy Oakland protest and were only going to emergency calls. Cukor told DeWitt to get off his property, court records show.
Cukor then went to a fire station not far from his home to get help, but the crew was on a call. When he returned, DeWitt attacked him, police and court records say. At 9:02 p.m. officers were dispatched to a 911 call from Cukor's wife who witnessed part of the attack.
When police arrived and searched the area, they found DeWitt at Shasta Road and Park Gate Road. He had fresh blood on his hands, sweatshirt, pants and shoes, and the knuckles on his right hand were swollen, according to the court statement.
Cukor's wife positively identified DeWitt as the suspect.
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408.