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Previously incompetent murder suspect takes deal
October 05, 2012, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

Vitin Cruz


A schizophrenic man previously committed as incompetent to stand trial on murder charges will remain in a state mental facility as part of a deal with prosecutors in which he admitted stabbing a fellow client at a San Carlos vocational center nearly eight years ago.

Vitin Ajani Cruz, 38, pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and using a knife while prosecutors agreed he is not guilty by reason of insanity based on doctors’ conclusions. Cruz, who has been housed in a locked psychiatric facility while awaiting trial, will be formally recommitted at a Nov. 16 hearing.

Cruz spent several years in and out of a state mental facility after being arrested for the Oct. 27, 2004 stabbing of Alfonso Ruiz at Vocational Rehabilitation Services on Quarry Road in San Carlos.

According to prosecutors, Cruz mistook Ruiz for another man as they sat next to each other at the center and suddenly lunged at him with a knife. Ruiz was stabbed several times in the upper torso and arm. Cruz fled but was arrested a few blocks away from the site. Ruiz died the following afternoon.

Defense attorney Vince O’Malley did not return a call for comment on the settlement but has previously said Cruz has a deep fear of being stabbed because he was left with severe stomach wounds several years before the murder during a bus attack in San Francisco. Cruz thought Ruiz was somehow associated with his previous attackers and possibly armed with a box cutter, according to O’Malley.

Schizophrenia medication and other signs of psychiatric problems were found at Cruz’s home during a police search after the stabbing.

Before he could be tried, Cruz was deemed incompetent by two of three court-appointed doctors and committed in March 2005. Three years later, he returned to San Mateo County but was rehospitalized that July. After three years, he was placed under a Murphy conservatorship which gives the San Mateo County Public Guardian the authority to make decisions on his behalf. He has since been at the locked psychiatric facility Crestwood Behavioral Health Center near Calistoga.

Last November, doctors concluded his competency was restored. O’Malley did not contest the finding but Cruz later entered twin pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.

Competency is a person’s ability to aid in his or her own defense while sanity is a person’s mental state at the time of an alleged act.

If Cruz had been convicted of murder and found sane, he faced up to 26 years in prison.

 


Michelle Durand can be reached by email: michelle@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.





   



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