Page One

Mother of Suspect in Berkeley Murder Says He is Mentally Ill

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Tuesday February 21, 2012 - 08:26:00 PM

The mother of a 23-year-old man who is accused of beating a Berkeley hills homeowner to death said today that he's been mentally ill for more than four years but was neglected by the mental health system. 

Candy Dewitt, the mother of Daniel Jordan Dewitt of Alameda, said her son became mentally ill after he turned 18 but she was never able to get him into a permanent treatment program. 

"He would be taken to the hospital and given treatment for a few days at a time and then be put back out on the streets again," Dewitt said. 

Berkeley police arrested Daniel Dewitt Saturday night for allegedly killing Peter Cukor, 67, who lived on Park Gate Road near the Shasta Road entrance to Tilden Park. 

Cukor owned a consulting company that provided logistics help for the transportation industry. 

According to the company's website, Cukor had an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. 

Berkeley police said they initially received a report on Saturday night of a suspicious person who possibly was trespassing on the homeowner's property. 

They said they later received a call of an attack in progress on Park Gate Road and immediately responded. 

The victim was treated at the scene by the first police officer who responded before being taken to a local trauma center by Berkeley Fire Department paramedics, police said. 

He was pronounced dead at the hospital. 

Dewitt is scheduled to be arraigned in Alameda County Superior Court on Wednesday. The District Attorney's Office is still reviewing the case and hasn't yet filed any charges. 

Candy Dewitt said her son graduated from Alameda High School in 2007 and played on the school's football team. She said, "He was a good kid and was very well-liked by his teachers and other students." 

Dewitt said that because the mental health system neglected her son, "They have now made victims of two more people," referring to the homicide victim and her son. 

Berkeley City Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, whose district includes the area where the homicide occurred, said she's asked police for a detailed timeline of what happened Saturday night because "there has been a lot of innuendo." 

Wengraf said, "People who live in the area initially were very frightened and rightfully so because it was a horrendous crime and everyone was very shaken. 

But she said, "It's now looking like this was an isolated incident and a very unique incident and this is not an unsafe area so everyone is feeling a little better." 

Wengraf said police have told her that Dewitt wasn't armed with any weapons and "he seemed confused and was hiding in the bushes." 

Cukor and his wife, Andrea Cukor, filed a lawsuit to try to block the construction of a new Berkeley fire station at 3000 Shasta Road, which is across the street from their home. 

In November of 1992, a year after a major fire caused widespread damage in the Oakland and Berkeley hills, Berkeley voters overwhelmingly approved a $55 million bond measure to fund critical improvements for disaster preparedness, including a new fire station. 

Berkeley officials said the new station would replace another aging station nearby and provide quicker response times to fires. 

The Cukors' suit blocked the new station for many years but on Nov. 5, 2003, a judge ruled in favor of the city and in 2004 the new station was approved by the city's zoning board and the City Council. 

The fire station finally opened on Oct. 31, 2006.