Reporting Andrea Menniti
STOCKTON (CBS13) — Dressed in a red jumpsuit, it wasn’t long before suspected killer Devon Omar Epps acted out in court on Thursday, first staring at television cameras and talking to himself.
Then, as Judge Franklin Stephens formally charged Epps with the beating and murder of the body found rotting in his bathroom tub of his downtown Stockton apartment, Epps started laughing and shaking his head.
Then Epps yelled, to no one in particular, “He’s the one who set me up.”When the judge asked Epps if he could afford his own attorney, he replied, “No, I cannot sir, and I’m pretty sure you already know that!”
Based on Epps’ previous undisclosed mental health issues while on parole and his behavior Thursday in court, the judge suspended the arraignment hearing until doctors can evaluate Epps’ mental state.
Prosecutors say not so fast.
“I see nothing that I can tell right now that he did not understand the difference between right and wrong and that he did not know what he did was wrong,” said San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Testa.
Testa pointed out that Epps has been found competent in the past.
“While he may have some mental health problems, I don’t think they rise to the level of he doesn’t understand what’s going on in court,” Testa said.
The family who believes the corpse Epps was living with for several months is their missing sister, 35-year-old Veronica Jones. They believe Epps was released from a mental facility earlier this year when he should have stayed put.
“Demented, sick behavior and I think mental health needs to be held accountable for the patients they just let on the street,” said Jones’ brother, Isaac Zuniga of Modesto.
Prosecutors say it could be a couple months before Epps’ mental evaluation is complete.
Epps was evicted from his apartment in the 500 block of E. Channel Street on Sunday and the apartment manager found the body in his third-floor apartment on Monday. He was arrested Tuesday night.
Police haven’t confirmed the identity of the body yet, pending autopsy results. The woman who found the body said the face had been beaten beyond recognition.
The homicide was the city’s 56th this year, topping the previous record set in 1992.