The defense attorney representing the man accused of murdering and decapitating his grandmother last week said he plans to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
Speaking outside court Tuesday after a scheduled appearance by Andrew Luke, 30, Deputy Public Defender Mark Jacobs said his client has a bipolar disorder.
“He was not medicated, and he was going through a psychotic break,” Jacobs said.
According to court documents, prosecutors allege that Luke reported on Sept. 24 that God had been speaking to him and he was possessed by a demon.
Trying to get the demon out, he banged his head repeatedly against a wall. He was taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital where he received staples to the back of his head.
He was then sent home.
“He went to the ER, he’s talking about these delusional beliefs that he had, acting psychotic, and they let him go home with his grandmother,” Jacobs said. “I don’t know if a psychiatrist saw him…but something broke down in our mental health system.”
“He was failed by the system. This whole thing could have been avoided,” said Mina Raissi, the mother of one of Luke’s childhood friends, who has known him since kindergarten. “They put a Band-Aid on him and sent him home.”
SFGH did not respond to a request for comment.
Court documents state Luke’s delusions continued the next day. At home, in the bathroom, he again banged his head repeatedly. When his grandmother, 83, came to the door, Luke believed she was possessed by a demon and he was commanded by Jesus “to get rid of it.”
Prosecutors say he then stabbed her with two knives, beat her over the head with a rolling pin, and used a knife to sever her head. He then called 911 to report what he had done.
“At the time, he didn’t know it was his grandmother,” Jacobs said.
Since his arrest, Luke has been receiving medication and psychiatric treatment, Jacobs said.
“He’s in deep pain and despair,” he said. “He loves his grandmother, and now he can’t believe what’s happened. He really believed he was killing the devil or a demon.”
“I want him to get real help, not just shoved into an institution,” Raissi said. “All throughout his high school years he was part of our family. He was welcome. When his grandmother was away on trips, he would stay with us.”
If Luke is found not guilty by reason of insanity, Jacobs said he would likely spend the rest of his life in a locked psychiatric facility. “I have known people who have gotten out,” he said. “Most don’t.”
“You only have a couple options: prison, or the state hospital,” Jacobs said. “Those are the only options our society and our civilization provides for this type of situation.”
Raissi and other childhood friends of Luke said they are now preparing for the tragedy of him never coming home.
“It’s one tragedy to lose the grandmother, but a bigger tragedy to lose Andrew like this,” she said. “We love him. His grandmother was his main provider through his childhood. I don’t want him to feel that he doesn’t have anybody else.”
Luke was scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, but remains hospitalized in a locked unit at SFGH. His arraignment has been scheduled for Oct. 9.