Suspect in death at Veterans Hospital pleads not guilty because of mental disease

Monday, April 8, 2013 | 7:06 p.m. CDT; updated 11:06 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 8, 2013

COLUMBIA — The defense attorney for Rudy Perez Jr., charged in the Feb. 1 beating death of a patient at Truman Veterans Hospital, pleaded not guilty by means of mental disease or defect on Perez's behalf Monday in Boone County Circuit Court. 

Perez, 33, is accused of killing Robert O. Hill, 78, while they were both patients at the Veterans Hospital. While the two men were in a common room, Perez attacked Hill, striking him in the head and face, according to the probable cause statement. They were separated by hospital staff and then placed in the same room three hours later. According to the statement, Perez attacked Hill again, forcing him onto the floor, kneeling over him and striking him multiple times in the head and face. 

Hill was transported to University Hospital where he died from his injuries. 

After Perez's first arraignment on Feb. 7 in Associate Circuit Court — where he placed the same plea — his attorney David Tyson Smith said Perez has a history of schizophrenia and was off his medication at the time of the attack.

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.

Perez is facing an additional six charges in Pettis County for a string of assaults in the week before he was brought to the Veterans Hospital.  

He is in custody in the Boone County Jail.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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