By Kristen Tuntland
A defendant with fatal brain cancer but also three strikes was released on his own recognizance, despite Judge Dave W. Reed’s great reservations. The preliminary hearing of Kenneth Eugene Drew was heard today on one charge of assault with a deadly weapon and one charge of possession of a controlled substance. Two witnesses testified: the brother of the defendant, who is also the alleged victim, and the investigating officer.
The brother of the defendant testified that on January 15, 2019, he drove to his mother’s house to confront the defendant, who lived there, about an utility bill. The brother was angry and yelling at the defendant, who seemed agitated and acted like he had been awake for a few days. Their mother was also agitated because the defendant tends to stay up all night with all the lights on, which raises the utility bill and keeps her awake.
The brother brought up the defendant’s drug abuse, which caused the defendant to jump into his brother’s face. Reactively, the brother punched the defendant – out of trained self-defense. The brother had never hit the defendant before in his life, and did not actually mean to do so – they had never been violent toward each other.
The defendant snapped and pulled a butcher block with knives off the kitchen wall. The defendant held knives in his hands and started swinging them toward his brother. During this chaos, their mother tried to stop the defendant but he knocked her over. The brother looked up just as the defendant was swinging knives toward his face but blocked himself with his hands. In that moment, he felt a sharp sting. As soon as this happened, the situation immediately de-escalated and the defendant calmed down. The knife used to cut the brother’s thumb was 13 inches long by one inch wide.
The brother immediately grabbed his thumb to stop the bleeding. He stepped outside to put his dog inside his truck then returned inside the house to grab a paper towel to try to stop the bleeding. Afterwards, the defendant held the blunt edge of a wider knife in near his brother’s neck and said something to the effect of “this is what I could’ve done” in a very calm demeanor.
Unable to stop the bleeding or reach his first aid kit, the brother drove to his daughter’s employment about a mile away to use her first aid kit. Paramedics were eventually called. The thumb injury required five stitches but he retained full function of his thumb. Because he is on blood thinners, he believes that caused the amount of blood and the extended time of bleeding. Additionally, he never believed the defendant would actually hurt him.
Usually, the defendant and their mother live peacefully together, except when the defendant is using drugs, causing him to stay up all night and leave the lights on. The brother drives often from Yuba City to the mother’s house in West Sacramento to help take care of the defendant and their mother. The brother testified that the defendant has had a drug problem for years but has never attacked any of them before.
While in jail, it was discovered the defendant has brain cancer. He received treatment for it previously last year, but he never fully entered remission. The family knew his brain cancer would return but they did not expect it to return to this quickly or aggressively.
Neither the brother or mother opposed the release of the defendant. In fact, the brother visited the defendant in jail several times. The brother believes that as long as the defendant stays away from drugs, he will be fine. Previously, the defendant entered a drug treatment program to which he responded favorably. If the defendant is released on his own recognizance, the brother would help him to the best of his ability and help him get to his doctor’s appointments.
The second witness was Officer Stefan Iwanicki of the West Sacramento Police Department, who was dispatched to the incident. He arrived at the daughter’s employment and took a statement from the defendant’s brother. He believed he had enough for an arrest and dispatched officers to the residence. Once they detained the defendant, they found 4.5 grams of methamphetamines in his jacket pocket. However, the defendant did not display any obvious signs of using and he cooperated with police.
Judge Reed found that the defendant will be held to answer for both charges, but he heard arguments for release on his own recognizance. The defense argued that he is seriously ill with a fatal diagnosis and needs to be able to go to doctor’s appointments. He would do well under supervision because of his solid family support and previous positive response to a drug treatment program.
The prosecution argued that the defendant is a “horrific candidate” for being released on his own recognizance because he is a “third striker.” Additionally, all medical information is second-hand hearsay from the brother and needs to be verified by medical documentation.
Judge Reed allowed the defendant’s release on his own recognizance under strict conditions, supervision, and proof of medical diagnosis at the next hearing. He also gave a stern warning that if he hears of drug use in the mother’s home, he will put the defendant in jail regardless of medical conditions. The judge stated he has great reservations about this and that the defendant is on a very short rope.
Arraignment will be held on March 13.