Suspect in Berkeley homicide appears in court

February 22, 2012 6:38:48 PM PST
The man accused of beating a Berkeley man to death appeared in court on Wednesday at the same time Berkeley police are defending their response time to a call that some say could have saved the victim's life.

Suspect Daniel Jordan DeWitt, 23, made his first court appearance in the beating death of 67-year-old Peter Cukor of Berkeley.

The father of DeWitt says his son had a long history of mental illness and that he may have been in the Berkeley Hills neighborhood looking for an imaginary girlfriend named Zoe.

"We always had a fear of him hurting himself or going to jail or hurting someone else," said Al DeWitt, Daniel's father.

Al spoke about his son, a homicide suspect, whom he describes as a paranoid schizophrenic. He and about a half dozen family members and friends, were in Alameda County Superior Court Wednesday to show their support as he faced charges that he killed Cukor.

The suspect's father, spoke about how tragic the last few days have been for the victim's family and his own. The family of Cukor has remained silent and residents in the quiet Berkeley Hills community were reluctant to appear on camera, all had nothing but kind words to say about the victim, who police say was beaten with a flower pot Saturday night.

Police say that the first call from the home came in on a non-emergency line, reporting a man trespassing. The next one was a 911 emergency call during the attack. Police say at the time, they had shifted patrols to deal with an Occupy Oakland protest that was heading towards Berkeley.

Outside of the courtroom, Al says his son had imaginary relationships.

"Zoe is a fictitious girlfriend that he has, that he's made-up in his mind and that's Zoe. It's been there for about a year now," said Al.

He also believes that more should have been done by the Berkeley Police Department to prevent what happened.

"If they would've got there on time, they probably could've stopped it, but because it seems like they had a conversation with the owner of the house, back and forth, in and out," said Al.

Berkeley police, however, defend their actions. In a statement from Lt. Andrew Greenwood reads in part: "Though no one's fault, the information received during the first call was not a report of an emergency. The attack had not yet occurred. The second, subsequent report of the assault was promptly handled as an emergency, and officers were dispatched accordingly."

Berkeley police told ABC7 that the events from Saturday are still under review.

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