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Judge orders committed killer out of private facility
February 23, 2013, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal Staff

The insane man who killed a vocational center client in San Carlos must be moved out of a private psychiatric facility into a state-run hospital if his care is to be funded by the state of California, a judge ruled Friday.

San Mateo County Judge Mark Forcum reversed his previous placement of Vitin Ajani Cruz, 39, after the state Attorney General's Office said the state would not pay unless the man is treated at Napa State Hospital. If Forcum had upheld his earlier order, San Mateo County would have been required to pay for Cruz's housing at Crestwood Behavioral Health Center near Calistoga which his defense attorney had argued was the best place for treatment and less expensive for taxpayers.

"The single issue was money. That's all that mattered," said defense attorney Vince O'Malley.

O'Malley said Crestwood costs $241 per day while Napa State Hospital's rate has skyrocketed up to $700 daily.

"Having said that, the state still refused to pay," O'Malley said.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe called Forcum's decision "excellent" and affirms his office's original position of where Cruz belongs. Prosecutors argued that the private facility is not meant as a permanent placement for incompetent or insane patients from the criminal system.

A status report by Napa is due within 10 business days to determine if bed space is available for Cruz's move. O'Malley said shifting Cruz to Napa also takes up a bed for a patient who may be more difficult to manage and better require that type of supervision.

Cruz had been staying at Crestwood the previous 14 months while deemed incompetent for trial on murder charges and later while prosecuted for the 2004 stabbing death of Alfonso Ruiz.

In October, Cruz pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and the use of a knife in the Oct. 27, 2004 death 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.

Cruz accepted the negotiated plea after prosecutors agreed he was not guilty by reason of insanity based on doctors' conclusions.

O'Malley has 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.

Cruz's hospitalization was just the latest in a long string since his arrest in Ruiz's death. In 2005, court-appointed doctors found him unable to aid in his own defense and he went back and forth between the mental facilities and county care until he was found competent in 2012.

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.

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

michelle@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102.


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