Murder suspect was looking for fictional girlfriend

KTVU broadcast this image of Daniel Jordan Dewitt

The mentally ill 23-year old man who is accused of killing Peter Cukor Saturday night entered into the 57-year old’s home in search of a fictional girlfriend.

Daniel Jordon DeWitt walked through a gate toward Cukor’s front door and said “he was a psychic and was told to go through the front gate to find Zoey,” according to court documents.

Zoey is DeWitt’s fictional girlfriend and does not exist, according to a family friend who asked not to be named.

DeWitt, who lives in Oakland, will return to Alameda County Court today to enter a plea. The District Attorney’s office alleges that Dewitt killed Cukor with a ceramic planter around 9 pm on February 18.


Cukor and his wife arrived at their home at 2 Park Gate in the Berkeley Hills around 8:45 pm on Saturday night and saw DeWitt nearby. Cukor called police using a nonemergency line at 8:45 pm, according to court documents. He told police there was a suspicious person in his garage. Police did not respond immediately because they were focusing efforts on an Occupy Oakland march that was expected to arrive shortly in Berkeley.

DeWitt left the grounds but later returned, according to court documents. Cukor and his wife Andrea saw him walk through their front gate toward their front door.

Cukor, a business management consultant, once again told DeWitt to leave and he did. Cukor then walked across the street to the fire station, presumably to ask for help. No firefighters were there and when Cukor returned to his home he was confronted by DeWitt who “viciously assaulted” him with a ceramic planter, according to court documents. Andrea Cukor witnessed part of the assault and called 911 at 9:02 pm. Police have said they arrived at the house within five minutes of that call.

Police and paramedics assisted Cukor but he was pronounced dead at Highland Hospital a short time later.

Dewitt was arrested by police near the Cukors’ house at 9:22 pm. Blood covered his hands, pants, sweatshirt and shoes, according to court documents. In addition, DeWitt’s knuckles on his right hand were swollen. Andrea Cukor also identified DeWitt as the assailant, according to court documents.

Family members say Dewitt is a paranoid schizophrenic who has been in and out of mental hospitals since he was 18. A former football player at Alameda High School, DeWitt is the grandson of the late Al DeWitt, the first African-American city council member in Alameda. DeWitt’s family still lives in Alameda.

DeWitt’s parents have tried numerous times to get their son admitted to a long-term psychiatric institution but have been stymied by state laws that do not allow people to be institutionalized against their will, according to family friends. DeWitt had last been released from the John George Psychiatric Pavilion in January, his father, Al DeWitt Jr., told the San Francisco Chronicle. A judge released him over his family’s objections.

“We advocated for him to be held there,” DeWitt’s father told the Chronicle. “If he would have been in custody, we wouldn’t be here talking. We always had a fear of him hurting himself or going to jail or hurting someone else.”

DeWitt served 19 days in jail in 2010 for a misdemeanor charge of sending harrassing text messages to a former high school classmate, according to court documents. He was also facing charges for assaulting a nurse at the psychiatric pavilion.

Related:
Councilmember: unanswered questions over murder [02.23.12]
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]