Tag Archives: Peter Cukor

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 murder victim Cukor files suit against Berkeley

Peter and Andrea Cukor. Photo: Matthew Sumner
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The family of Peter Cukor, killed by a mentally disturbed man outside his Berkeley hills home on February 18, filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday against the city.

R. Lewis Van Blois, the Cukor family attorney, charged in the lawsuit that the city and police acted grossly negligently in their handling of Cukor murder. At the core of the case is the issue of how seriously police took Cukor’s call and how promptly officers responded.

“Peter Cukor had called the Berkeley Police Department on their emergency number for help to request a police officer be sent to their home right away because the intruder was attempting to get inside the Cukor home and was acting strangely,” Van Blois said in a press release. “The police dispatcher promised to get someone to their home soon and the Cukors relied on this representation. In fact, the Berkeley Police Dispatcher never intended nor requested a police officer to respond and when a police officer called to say he could respond to the call, he was told not to go. Soon thereafter, the intruder attacked Peter Cukor and fatally struck him on the head with a flower pot.” … 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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Poll: Police Chief’s reputation tarnished, not department

Meehan portrait
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Recent actions by Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan have damaged his standing, but the department’s reputation has not been overly tarnished and there is not strong demand for Meehan to apologize. These are the main findings of our “Berkeley Police Chief” Reader Poll, which we launched on Friday and kept open over the Memorial Day weekend.

We had 301 respondents to the poll, which was designed to take the pulse of the community rather than be scientific. Many of you qualified your votes with comments.

Sixty percent of you felt the January incident in which Meehan sanctioned sending ten officers to Oakland to look for his teenage son’s stolen iPhone, and the March incident in which he sent an officer to a reporter’s home in the middle of the night to correct a story, had sullied the Chief’s reputation. Only 38% felt the department’s reputation had been damaged as a result, however. Although a number of readers called on the Chief to resign, many felt there was a clear distinction between the boss and the rank and file. “It is possible to be very proud of BPD and at the same time very embarrassed of Meehan,” wrote Berkeleyan in the comments. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley will spend up to $50K after police chief blunder

BPD Chief Michael Meehan: two outside agencies have been hired by the city after a mistake he made on March 9
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The city of Berkeley has hired a public relations firm at a cost of $24,000 to review the police department’s media policies, bringing the price tag to $49,000 for Police Chief Michael Meehan’s decision to send a sergeant to a reporter’s home in the middle of the night to ask for a change to a story.

Cornerstone Communications, located in Irvine, will audit the police department’s policies on the release of information, make recommendations to ensure the department is following “best practices,” media guidelines, and train police personnel on changing media dynamics, on understanding social media, and media culture.

The firm will talk to police management and reporters who cover the police department, and assess the police department’s reputation in recent news coverage and social media space. The contract was signed on May 1. … 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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Berkeley police officer switching jobs in wake of scandal

Berkeley Police Officer Portrait
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Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, the public information officer who the Berkeley police chief sent to the home of a reporter around 1 am on March 9, prompting media coverage around the world, is stepping down from her post.

Sgt. Kusmiss will return to patrol duties sometime in the next few months, she announced Wednesday. She would not discuss the reasons behind the move. No new PIO has been selected yet, she said.

The last few months have been tough ones for the Berkeley Police Department, which was criticized for its response to the bludgeoning death of Peter Cukor, 67, in the Berkeley hills on Feb. 18. The spotlight on the department intensified on March 9 after Chief Michael Meehan ordered Kusmiss to go the Berkeley home of Oakland Tribune Reporter Doug Oakley at 12:45 am to ask him to change a story he had just posted online. … 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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Police used internal database to get reporter’s address

Chief Michael Meehan at a police promotion ceremony on March 27. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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When Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan wanted to find out how to contact  Oakland Tribune reporter Doug Oakley to get him to change a story he had written, he directed a sergeant to look for an address on a police database.

The early morning search by Sgt. Mary Kusmiss on March 9 revealed reporter Doug Oakley’s phone number, but not his address, according to documents released by the city of Berkeley on Tuesday in response to a public records request made by Berkeleyside and other media.

“Comm Ctr did research *s me. He has been a RP/victim All 843XXXX I am heading home Let me know if I can help further Mary,” Sgt. Kusmiss wrote to Meehan at 12:26 am on March 9. … Continue reading »

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City releases transcript of murder victim’s call to police

Berkeley has released a transcript of a call made by Peter Cukor to BPD on Feb 18, shortly before he was murdered outside his home on Park Gate. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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City officials on Tuesday released a transcript of Peter Cukor’s Feb. 18 non-emergency call to police, and in it he asks for police to come “right away” to deal with Daniel Jordan DeWitt, who allegedly killed him about 15 minutes later.

The two-page transcript, however, does not reveal what, if any, level of urgency Cukor conveyed in his voice.

Cukor and his wife Andrea first encountered DeWitt when they returned to their home on Park Gate in the Berkeley hills around 8:30 pm on Feb. 18. DeWitt was hanging around their driveway. Cukor asked DeWitt to leave and then called police at 8:45 pm on a non-emergency number to report that a stranger was lingering nearby:

“Cukor: “Yes, there is a gentleman, a young man hanging around my property. I think he is a transient. I’m not sure.
Dispatch: What is the address sir?
Cukor: 2 Park Gate Berkeley
Dispatch: And he is just standing around there?
Cukor: Yeah. He says that he lives here. He wants to come in which is very strange. I’d like an officer up here right away.” … 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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Berkeley City orders investigation into Police Chief

BPD Chief Michael Meehan: two outside agencies have been hired by the city after a mistake he made on March 9
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This story was rewritten at 2:50 pm for the purposes of clarity.

The City of Berkeley has ordered an investigation into Police Chief Michael Meehan following his decision to send an officer to a reporter’s home at 12:45 am on March 9 asking him to make a correction.

The statement by Interim City Manager Christine Daniel that she had hired public law specialists Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai on Monday was issued today, less than half an hour after the Berkeley Police Association said it had sent Daniel a letter calling for a formal investigation into the Chief.

On being informed of the city’s action, Officer Tim Kaplan, President of the Berkeley Police Association, said: “That’s great to hear. That’s exactly what we feel should be done. It’s the right step.”

Kaplan told Berkeleyside earlier today: “The bottom line is we do not believe there should be double standards in the department. It is guaranteed that any captain, lieutenant or sergeant would be on administrative leave if this had happened to them.” … Continue reading »

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