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Daniel Dewitt's Parents Advocate for Reforms in Mental Health Laws

Alamedans Candy and Al Dewitt, whose schizophrenic son is accused of killing a stranger earlier this year, say that involuntary treatment could have prevented a tragedy.

An Alameda couple whose son is earlier this year are at the center of an article in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle.

Their son's history points up tragic flaws in California's mental health system, say Candy and Al Dewitt, who are among those pushing for reforms that would compel seriously mentally ill and potentially dangerous persons to accept medical treatment.

The Dewitts' son, Daniel, 23, was diagnosed as schizophrenic and hospitalized repeatedly on an involuntary basis, according to the Chronicle article. Each time, he was released back into the community. Most recently, Daniel was released from the John George Psychiatric Pavilion in San Leandro on Dec. 13, 2011, after fighting the hold and appearing at a special hearing, the Chronicle says.

Two months later, on Feb. 18, Daniel was arrested after the killing of Peter Cukor, 67, in Berkeley. He has been and is being held at Napa State Hospital.

Some mental health advocates, including the Dewitts, believe the tragedy could have been averted by more extensive use of Laura's Law. The law, named for a Nevada County murder victim, allows court-ordered outpatient treatment for those who, like Daniel, have been hospitalized repeatedly and who have a record of violence.

You may read the complete Chronicle article and see an accompanying photo gallery here.

Candy Dewitt was also among those interviewed for a June 22 New York Times Magazine article on involuntary treatment for the mentally ill.

For friends' memories of Daniel's years as a student at St. Joseph's Elementary School and Alameda High School, see Before the Break: Highs and Hopes of Daniel Dewitt.

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Anita Pryor August 17, 2012 at 01:37 AM
My nephew is Johnny Daniel Rigsby , Jr. He has been incarcerated 2 years in county jail . He was diagnosed as psychotic and delusional in 2008 and 2010 . The state team had another eval done that claims he is competent (he is not) . He has been pushed through the court system and doesn't have a clue as to what is going on around him . He has been declared quilty for malice murder, felony murder with circumstantial evidence. His sentencing has been delayed until 8/29/12. Due to The court appointed lawyer requestting his previous psyche evaluations. I have to mention The investigative process was almost non existent . He has been pushed through the system . Please if you can offer any assistance or direction we would be very greatful Thank you, Anita Pryor 770 468 8463 anitapryor@att.net

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