Tag Archives: Daniel DeWitt

Mentally ill man who killed Peter Cukor of Berkeley is committed to Napa State Hospital for 33 years to life

Andrea Cukor, whose husband Peter Cukor was murdered by a mentally ill man in 2012, speaks to reporters after the sentencing. Behind her, her son Alexander Cukor listens to her comments. Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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Daniel DeWitt, the mentally ill man who bludgeoned Peter Cukor to death in his Berkeley Hills home in 2012, was committed Friday to 33 years to life at the Napa State Hospital.

Judge Paul Delucchi handed down the long sentence after listening to the impassioned testimony of Cukor’s widow, Andrea, his son Alexander, and his close friend Percival Banks. Delucchi described the case as one of the most tragic and serious he has ever seen in his court, the result of “a remarkable, almost unbelievable, sequence of events.”

“I won’t sit here and guarantee that this won’t happen again,” said Judge DeLucchi, looking at the Cukors and about 20 of their friends sitting in the courtroom. “I can guarantee Mr. Dewitt won’t do it again, but that comes at an incredible cost.”

Read more on the Peter Cukor case in Berkeleyside’s coverage.

DeWitt had been in and out of mental institutions before the killing, which happened on Feb. 18, 2012. … Continue reading »

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Cukor family settles lawsuit against Berkeley police

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The family of Peter Cukor, who was allegedly killed by a mentally disturbed man in February 2012 while he waited for police to come to his house, has dropped its lawsuit against Berkeley in exchange for promises to change the questions dispatchers ask those calling during an emergency.

Berkeley has not admitted any fault in connection with the tragedy, said R. Lewis Van Blois, who represents Cukor’s widow, Andrea, and her adult sons Alexander and Christopher.

“The changes will result in better communication between the Communication Center and the emergency caller regarding police response to calls,” said Van Blois. … Continue reading »

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Family of murdered man files claim against Berkeley

Peter and Andrea Cukor. Photo: Matthew Sumner
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The family of Peter Cukor, killed outside his Berkeley hills home on February 18, took steps Wednesday to sue the city of Berkeley for wrongful death.

R. Lewis Van Blois, the Cukor family attorney, filed a claim against Berkeley and its police department for wrongful death and severe emotional distress. The city has 45 days to respond to the claim. After that a lawsuit can be filed.

The claim includes new details about the attack that 23-year old Daniel DeWitt allegedly made against Cukor around 8:45 pm on February 18.

Peter Cukor and his wife Andrea returned to their home at 2 Park Gate around 8:40 pm where they encountered Dewitt inside their garage, according to the claim. Cukor told Dewitt to leave, but the 23-year old responded that he lived there, he was looking for Zoey, and a psychic told him he could find her if he entered the house. Dewitt eventually left, but returned a short time later and entered a gate that led to a patio at the front of the house. Cukor told him to leave a second time. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley murder suspect DeWitt breaks deputy’s jaw

Daniel DeWitt: charged with February 18 murder of Peter Cukor in Berkeley
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Daniel Jordan DeWitt, the 23-year old charged with murdering Peter Cukor, 67, outside his Berkeley Hills home on February 18, yesterday punched an Alameda County sheriff’s deputy and broke his jaw, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

DeWitt was being placed in waist and leg chains ahead of being transported to Napa State Hospital when he punched the deputy without warning at John George Psychiatric Pavilion in San Leandro.

DeWitt, who according to his family was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia five years ago, allegedly punched and kicked a nurse at the same psychiatric facility in 2010.

Sheriff’s Sgt. J.D. Nelson told the Chronicle: “Unfortunately, there are people in society who will strike out at a moment’s notice and for no reason. Those are the kind of people we have to deal with on a daily basis.” … Continue reading »

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Family of murder victim criticizes police response

The entrance to the house where Peter Cukor was attacked and killed. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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Peter Cukor used his cell phone and what he had been told was an emergency number when he called Berkeley police to report that a strange man was lurking around his property, his family said at a press conference Friday.

Just about a week before Cukor was allegedly attacked and killed by 23-year old Daniel DeWitt, he received an email from a neighborhood group informing him to program 510-981-5911 into his cell phone to use during emergencies, according to R. Lewis Van Blois, an Oakland attorney representing the family. Cukor used that number at 8:45 pm on Feb. 18 to convey that he needed a police officer to help immediately, said Van Blois.

Berkeley police did not respond immediately to Cukor’s request for help because the dispatcher did not think there was a crime in progress or any threat to life. Cukor called on a non-emergency line and spoke in a calm voice, Berkeley police have repeatedly said. … Continue reading »

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Suspect not competent to stand trial in Cukor murder

KTVU broadcast this image of Daniel Jordan Dewitt
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Daniel Jordan DeWitt, who was charged with the Feb. 18 Berkeley hills murder of Peter Cukor, is not mentally competent to stand trial, a judge ruled Thursday.

Two doctors examined DeWitt and both concluded the 23-year old did not understand the charges filed against him nor could he help in his own defense, Assistant Public Defender Brian Bloom told the San Francisco Chronicle.

DeWitt will return to court April 13 when Alameda County Judge Sandra Beam will remand him to a state mental hospital for treatment, according to the Oakland Tribune. The idea is to return him to mental competency so he can stand trial. … Continue reading »

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Police: We responded properly to Cukor’s murder

Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan:
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Berkeley police have reviewed the agency’s actions on the night Peter Cukor was murdered and do not believe they took any missteps, Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said Thursday.

But media reports have created the inaccurate impression that police ignored an emergency call from Cukor because they were too busy monitoring an Occupy march.

That was the message that Chief Meehan and some of his top staff delivered to Berkeleyside on Thursday afternoon in a wide-ranging interview that lasted more than an hour. … Continue reading »

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Murder trial delayed for psychological assessment

Daniel DeWitt, charged with felony murder and use of a deadly weapon. Photo: KTVU
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Judge Sandra Bean yesterday delayed the trial of homicide suspect Daniel Jordan DeWitt so that two doctors could assess him for mental competence under section 1368 of the California Penal Code.

On Wednesday, DeWitt was charged with felony murder and use of a deadly weapon in the killing of Peter Cukor outside his home in the Berkeley hills on Feb 18. Yesterday, Dewitt’s lawyer, Brian Bloom, asked the court for a delay so that DeWitt’s competence to stand trial could be assessed.

Cukor and his wife Andrea Cukor returned home around 8:45 pm on the night of Feb. 18 and saw DeWitt loitering in their garage. Peter Cukor told DeWitt to leave, went inside the house, then came out again and was attacked, according to BPD. A ceramic planter was allegedly used in the attack.

Al DeWitt Jr., DeWitt’s father, said his son was diagnosed five years ago with paranoid schizophrenia and has been in mental health facilities at least nine times. … Continue reading »

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Murder suspect was looking for fictional girlfriend

KTVU broadcast this image of Daniel Jordan Dewitt
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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. … Continue reading »

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Alleged killer had been in and out of mental institutions

KTVU broadcast this image of Daniel Jordan Dewitt
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Update: 5:25 pm: The Berkeley Police Department released the following updated and additional information regarding the February 18 homicide at around 5:00pm today. BPD identifies the victim as Peter Cukor, and includes a statement from BPD Chief Michael Meehan:

“Several published and on-line reports relied on a single account of an inaccurate chronology of this incident. Please note below the actual timelines of the initial stages of this case.

At approximately 8:45 PM, BPD received a report of a suspicious person possibly trespassing. The caller reported an encounter with an unknown person “hanging around” his property, and asked that an officer be sent to investigate. This call for service was queued for dispatch.

At that time, available Patrol teams were being reconfigured in order to monitor a protest march which was to come into Berkeley from Oakland in the next hour. Only criminal, in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched, 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.

At approximately 9:00 PM, an officer, seeing several pending calls for service, including two “suspicious circumstances”, offered to respond to either of the calls. The officer’s offer was declined, as only in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley hills neighbors react with shock to murder

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Update, 6:25 pm: BPD issued some new clarifications at 5:00 pm this evening about the February 18th killing. There follows a statement by Operations & Area 2 Commander Lt. Andrew Greenwood:

“BPD received a report of a suspicious person possibly trespassing. The caller calmly reported an encounter with a strange person on his property, and asked for an officer to respond. This call for service was queued for dispatch.

At that time, available Patrol teams were being reconfigured in order to monitor a protest which was to come into Berkeley from Oakland in the next hour. Only criminal, in-progress emergency calls were to be dispatched, due to the reduction in officers available to handle calls for service.

BPD subsequently received a call of an attack in progress on Park Gate Rd. Officers were immediately dispatched to that call. … Continue reading »

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