Councilmember: Unanswered questions over murder

Park Gate in Berkeley: The scene of the murder on the evening of Feb. 18 of Peter Cukor. Photo: Tracey Taylor

Update, 4:32 pm: Murder suspect Daniel DeWitt did not enter a plea this afternoon at his arraignment in Alameda County Superior Court, according to an updated report by Henry Lee in the Chronicle. His father, Al DeWitt Jr., confirmed the person his son described as his fiancée, Zoey, does not exist. Daniel DeWitt was diagnosed five years ago with paranoid schizophrenia and has a pending misdemeanor battery case for an incident last year.

Original story: Berkeley City Councilmember Susan Wengraf is to meet with Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan to seek answers to what she says are still unanswered questions over the police response to the Feb. 18 killing of Peter Cukor, 67, outside his home at Park Gate in the north Berkeley hills.

In particular, Wengraf says she wants to understand more clearly the prioritization of non-emergency calls by BPD and larger protocol issues about how calls to the police from the community are handled.

BDP did not respond to a non-emergency call placed by Cukor at approximately 8:45 pm on Feb. 18. because patrol teams had been reconfigured to monitor an Occupy protest march which was coming into Berkeley from Oakland. The first of several BPD officers arrived at the scene within five minutes of a subsequent 911 call by Cukor’s wife, which was placed at 9:02 pm, after the murder suspect had begun to assault Cukor.


District 6 councilmember Susan Wengraf: looking for answers

“The bottom line is citizens need to know they have access 24/7 to safety professionals regardless of what is happening,” says Wengraf, whose district encompasses the Cukor home in the north Berkeley hills.

In a statement issued Tuesday (published on Berkeleyside), BPD said only criminal, in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched that night, due to the reduction in officers available to handle calls for service. “Concerns about the potential for violence associated with the march resulted in plans to allocate officers to monitor the march,” they said.

An offer by an officer to respond to two pending “suspicious circumstances” calls for service was declined “as only in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched.”

BPD explains in detail how it prioritizes calls on its website.

It has emerged that the murder suspect, Daniel Jordan DeWitt, 23, who, his mother and sources close to the family say is mentally ill, was inside the home’s garage when the Cukors first returned to their home. The Chronicle reports that DeWitt, who is being charged today with murder, was twice told to leave the property. He said he was a psychic and had been told to enter the home to look for “his fiancée Zoey”.


No one by that name lives at the home, and there is no evidence that DeWitt is engaged to be married, according to authorities.

DeWitt is accused of bludgeoning Peter Cukor to death using a ceramic planter.

Wengraf, who had known Cukor for many years, will attend next week’s Park Hills neighborhood residents’ association meeting and has asked Chief Meehan and City Manager Christine Daniel to accompany her. She says neighbors have been badly shaken by the killing and deserve to know details about the city’s response.

Related:
Alleged killer had been in and out of mental institutions [02.21.12]
Berkeley hills neighbors react with shock to brutal murder [02.20.12]
Intruder assaults, kills homeowner on Grizzly Peak [02.19.12]