By Annette Christie
More mental testing ordered for Perez pre-trial
Although Alex Perez was found competent to stand trial following five months of in-patient treatment in a state provided psychiatric hospital, additional mental testing has been ordered for him prior to his trial scheduled for October 17. Perez was in Berrien County Trial Court this week when his attorney, Richard Sammis asked Judge Scott Schofield for an independent psychiatrist to evaluate Perez.
Perez, 25, faces first degree murder charges in the deaths of Renee Mitchell, 27 and her father John Mitchell, 68. The Mitchells were found dead in their Hagar Township home from a concerned relative on January 14, 2016. Renee Mitchell’s two children that she had with Perez were missing.
A nation-wide Amber Alert was issued for the three and four year-old girls. They were found to be in the possession of Perez in Georgetown, Colorado. Published reports state that since then, his parental rights have been terminated.
Perez was found to be incompetent in June of 2016; however, there was no room at the state hospital that needed to provide his mental treatment. Once room became available, he was transported there. He had been there since January of 2017.
In July, Schofield made the ruling that Perez was competent based on progress reports from the hospital. Published reports state that there is still some question about the criminal responsibility, being what Perez’ state of mind was at the time of the alleged crime. While details of the psychiatric examination are not made available, it was confirmed that Perez was tested for criminal responsibility. Sammis however, wants the court to now pay for an independent psychiatrist.
Schofield approved the psychiatrist services but requested information from Sammis such as who will do the exam, the cost, and the length of time this will take before results are available.
The next court date scheduled for the Perez case is September 11.
Letters of Commendation for Watervliet / Coloma Police Officers
Watervliet Police Officer Travis Kusmierski and Coloma Township Police Officer Brett Langston were commended for their outstanding police work recently in a burglary incident in the City of Watervliet.
Watervliet Police Chief Timothy Sutherland issued letters of commendation to both officers who responded to a burglary in progress on E. St. Joseph Street on January 12, 2017. Kusmierski responded to the incident in which the home owner had been confronted by the suspected burglar inside the home. Kusmierski responded to the call in less than a minute and immediately began searching the area for the suspect. He was able to quickly identify the suspect as Jonathan Axsom.
Langston responded to assist with the call and began also searching for the suspect. Langston spotted the suspect and took Axsom into custody.
Axsom was subsequently arrested for two outstanding arrest warrants out of Van Buren County in addition to the burglary. He was convicted of the burglary and sentenced to jail time and probation.
In Sutherland’s letter to Kusmierski he states, “This letter serves to commend you for outstanding police work and as an example to all police officers of this department as to what we should strive for every day in protecting the citizens of Watervliet.”
In Sutherland’s letter to Langston he wrote, “This letter serves to commend you for outstanding police work and as a text book example of the great things we can do as police departments if we work together for the common goal of protecting the communities we serve.”