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Columbia Missourian

Defense: Truman Veterans Hospital murder suspect has history of mental illness

By Dani Kass
February 7, 2013 | 4:28 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Rudy Perez Jr. has a history of schizophrenia and was off his medication when he allegedly killed a fellow patient at Truman Veterans Hospital last Friday, his attorney said after his arraignment Thursday.

Defense attorney David Tyson Smith entered a plea of not guilty "by reason of mental disease" to a charge of first-degree murder against Perez, who participated in his arraignment in Boone County Circuit Court via closed-circuit TV from the Boone County Jail. He has been held there since Wednesday, when he was transferred from the Biggs unit at Fulton State Hospital. His cash-only bail is set at $1 million.

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Warren Brewer, chief jailer at the Boone County Jail, said Perez is not allowed to mingle with the jail's general population.

“He’s separate from others, out of his cell a very limited amount of time and escorted to and from any area in the jail that he might have to go to,” Brewer said.

Perez is accused of beating Robert O. Hill to death at the hospital, where, Smith said, Perez was seeking psychiatric help. Smith said the assault was provoked by another patient, but he said he did not know if that patient was Hill.

According to the probable cause statement, on Friday Perez struck Hill on the head and face at the veterans hospital. The two were separated, and after Perez calmed down and Hill’s injuries were treated, they were allowed in the common area together. Three hours later, Perez allegedly attacked Hill again, forcing him onto the floor, kneeling over him and striking him multiple times in the face and head, according to the statement. 

“He and his family are remorseful about everything,” Smith said.

Perez will most likely undergo a mental health examination to determine whether he was incompetent at the time of the incident, Smith said. He said he does not know if Perez was effected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the Missouri Revised Statutes, someone who is deemed mentally incompetent at the time of a crime and was incapable of knowing and appreciating the nature, quality or wrongfulness of his or her conduct can't be held responsible for the crime.

The week leading up to the alleged homicide, Perez was involved in a series of assaults and a burglary, prompting an officer at the Pettis County Sheriff’s Department to obtain a court order for Perez to receive a 96-hour involuntary evaluation and treatment at Missouri Psychiatric Center, Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond said. Perez's father reported one of the assaults; a jail officer reported another, Bond said.

Perez has not shown any violent behavior while he has been in the jail, Brewer said.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.