Friends, Mental Health Clinicians Testify to ‘Bizarre’ Behavior of Alleged Davis Serial Stabber in Competency Trial

By Madison Whittemore and Holly Werris

WOODLAND, CA – The trial for determining the mental competency of Carlos Dominguez—allegedly responsible for the stabbing rampage in Davis earlier this year—reconvened Wednesday here in Yolo County Superior Court, starting with a particularly emotional testimony from a close friend who discussed the accused’s peculiar changes before and during the fatal stabbings.

The defense continued to present witnesses to the jury in Wednesday’s trial to establish the incompetency of Dominguez to stand a full trial—former roommates, a friend and mental health clinicians took the stand.

Before jurors entered the courtroom, Judge Samuel McAdam addressed a brief that was submitted by Deputy District Attorney Frits van der Hoek after an objection had been made by prosecution during a witness’s testimony Tuesday.

The objection by DDA van der Hoek was prompted when a former roommate of Dominguez explained he believed Dominguez suffers from schizophrenia.

While Judge McAdam agreed almost all of the opinions from Tuesday’s witnesses were admissible (or could be considered by jurors), he ultimately decided the statement from the former roommate should be stricken from the record and the jury should give “no weight” to the layperson’s opinion about Dominguez and schizophrenia.

Deputy Public Defender Daniel Hutchinson first called this former roommate of Dominguez to the witness stand and resumed his direct examination that had begun on Tuesday.

When asked by Hutchinson about how Dominguez’s behavior and movement had changed since the beginning of their friendship, the witness explained that Dominguez gradually became socially withdrawn and began to display “odd, rigid walking…like dragging his feet.”

After a cross-examination by DDA van der Hoek, there was back and forth questioning by both the prosecution and the defense, ending with DPD Hutchinson trying to repetitively question the witness.

However, Judge McAdam interjected, stating that “we are kind of spinning our wheels here…the jury will determine the credibility and what weight is to be given.”

The next witness to testify, another former roommate of Dominguez, shared similar concerns as other roommates regarding the changes in Dominguez’s physical appearance, noting Dominguez previously had short, well-kept curly hair and an “athlete’s body.”

DPD Hutchinson proceeded, asking the witness if Dominguez had ever mentioned hearing voices or acted in usual ways. The witness nodded yes, conceding that within the first couple of months of their friendship “[h]e (Dominguez) asked me if I heard anything in my head” and would frequently stare at nothing for periods of time when on the couch or at the kitchen sink.

The witness explained that after winter break, he and his other roommates had a meeting at which they discussed shared concerns about Dominguez’s mental health and ways to potentially help him.

“I told him that therapy as a UC Davis student is free,” the witness claimed, adding, “I just tried to talk to him but it didn’t really go anywhere.”

DPD Hutchinson called another witness to the stand, a former friend of Dominguez, who had previously lived in the room that Dominguez resided in during his junior year at UC Davis.

The witness had become friends with Dominguez over their shared love of music and they bonded over learning how to use music software such as GarageBand together.

While the witness admitted that he never considered Dominguez a highly “emotive” person, he said that Dominguez would smile and laugh in group settings, also highlighting that “he was always reserved but he was never withdrawn.”

When questioned by DPD Hutchinson about any gradual changes in the behavior of Dominguez, the witness highlighted several observations.

The witness recalled that when Dominguez played his drums after winter break, “There wasn’t rhythm, it was more intense hitting and he had withdrawn a lot from the group and was keeping his distance.” The witness said that he attributed the change in drumming to Dominguez coping from a recent breakup.

The witness continued, adding that Dominguez became more reclusive and stayed away from his roommates and speculated that Dominguez was upset about a conversation the witness had with him about being late on November’s rent payment.

At this point during the testimony, the witness broke down into tears and Judge McAdam gave the witness some time to compose himself.

After a brief pause, the witness also noted a change in Dominguez’s once friendly behavior and body language towards him, citing how they used to give each other fist bumps in passing. Before Dominguez’s change of behavior he “felt like there was another person on the end of the fist bump.”

However after winter break, Dominguez stopped returning the fist bumps and would simply walk past the witness “like he wasn’t alive,” only leaving his bedroom when he would make food and would “beeline to his room, to the kitchen” with a bizarre and pronounced gait.

The witness continued to emphasize Dominguez’s odd walking habits, noting a specific instance after the stabbings occurred when Dominguez left the house, walked into the road, and made an extremely sharp turn in the middle of the road which the witness concluded he “had never seen him do.”

The next witness is a social worker and a mental health clinician who works for Wellpath at the Yolo County Jail and was subpoenaed to testify as an expert witness in Dominguez’s competency trial.

During direct examination by DPD Hutchinson, the witness began by establishing a timeline of Dominguez’s mental deterioration, first starting on May 4 when he was taken into custody.

“He presented with bizarre posture. He was very rigid in the way that he was standing,” stated the witness, also noting, “He presented very flat which means without an emotional response.”

The witness clarified that rigid posture is oftentimes a symptom of mental illness.

She also noted that due to being held on such serious charges, Dominguez was place on suicide watch, and has not been removed since.

“Mr. Dominguez has presented withdrawn since he came into our custody. He has shown an inability to care for himself,” the witness said, adding he refuses to eat food or shower and does not maintain his personal hygiene.

In the early days of being in custody, although guarded, Dominguez provided short responses to questions—usually responding with “good” and denying feeling anxious or depressed, said the witness.

As time went on, the witness explained, Dominguez’s hygiene rapidly deteriorated with his hair becoming increasingly “disheveled” and his body odor becoming more pungent. In addition to this, Dominguez’s communication rapidly decayed, ceasing most verbal communication in late May, and usually responding by shaking his head or providing a thumbs up or down.

At this time, Dominguez was also having delusional thoughts, telling the witness he needed to have a Zoom meeting with his academic advisor to register for classes for next quarter—even though he was no longer a student at UC Davis.

The Wellpath worker said Dominguez had deteriorated so much that she filed a 5150 assessment (from the Welfare and Institutions Code section relating to a 72-hour hold) which “determines if a person is a danger to themselves, a danger to others, or gravely disabled.”

The witness said she became increasingly concerned because “his vitals were unstable” and Dominguez was rushed to the emergency room and placed on a 5150 hold for a grave disability.

“Although he was provided food, he wasn’t eating it and although he was provided shelter, he wasn’t caring for his basic needs or showering. He was very withdrawn and not able to verbalize at that point what his needs were,” the witness explained to the jury.

Throughout her visits with Dominguez, the Wellpath worker repeatedly noted the accused’s rigid posture and poor eye contact, as well as slow movements. When alone in his cell, the witness observed, Dominguez stares at the wall or the floor. All of these, the specialist said, are potential symptoms of schizophrenia.

When asked if he is doing okay, the witness explained, the accused would respond with a thumbs up, noting he denied all symptoms of schizophrenia when asked.

The reason Dominguez has been kept on suicide watch is because of his withdrawn behavior, said the witness, explaining, “He has episodes of hunger strike, he has poor hygiene, is not able to engage in any sort of safety plan or identify coping skills.” In addition to poor hygiene, Dominguez had become thin to the point that the witness said she could see his spine and ribcage.

The witness also asked Dominguez whether he understood court proceedings, to which he shook his head no. According to the witness, this response was typical to the accused, who had become increasingly nonverbal and unresponsive.

During an assessment on June 2, Dominguez told the witness he was upset over missing school. The witness said she did not remind Dominguez he was no longer a student at UC Davis.

On June 21 and July 10, recommendations were made to administer emergency antipsychotic medication to Dominguez. Medication was administered on July 13. Following this, an officer told the witness Dominguez had taken a shower. The witness said she observed that there was a decrease in body odor.

Dominguez was transferred to the emergency room for an evaluation on July 21 after appearing to be catatonic. As he was being transferred, the Wellpath witness said she asked if he needed anything, and he responded, “No.”

DDA van der Hoek, on cross-examination, made it a point that, were Dominguez to be removed from suicide watch, he could be placed in the general population. But the witness corrected him, saying there was also a potential he could be put on administrative segregation, which would isolate him.

DDA van der Hoek re-examined the previous reasons the Wellpath witness had given for Dominguez being placed on suicide watch, asking if she believed whether he was actually unable to care for himself, or whether he was simply unwilling to. The witness affirmed that she believed he was unable.

When asked, the witness repeated that whenever she asked Dominguez how he was, he would indicate he was doing well, and denied that he was hearing voices. Dominguez had also never started speaking to himself or acting erratically in his cell, or been held the full 72 hours of a 5150 hold or had that hold extended into a 5250 hold, in which the subject is held for 14 days.

The witness also rejected the argument that Dominguez wanted to be left alone, based on her observations about his presentation.

DDA van der Hoek questioned the Wellpath worker witness’ inability to build a rapport with the accused. She admitted that people with more serious charges tend to be less willing to engage with staff.

DDA van der Hoek repeatedly asked whether or not Dominguez was required to follow her recommendations, which he was not. He can choose whether or not to follow her advice, the witness affirmed.

DDA van der Hoek also brought up Dominguez’s confusion about his case. The witness responded she did not ask him more questions on the matter, and that she does not know whether or not Dominguez is able to assist his attorney in their meetings.

Hutchinson closed the examination by asking her whether she had worked to build a rapport with Dominguez, which she responded she had. He also asked whether anyone at Yolo County Jail had ever been placed on a 5250 hold, to which the Wellpath worker/witness replied, “Not that I can recall.”

When asked about Dominguez’s inability or unwillingness to help himself, she said “I believe that he has not been able to make these choices because of a mental health diagnosis.”

Another Wellpath mental health clinician was called by the defense to the stand. She works with Dominguez at Yolo County Jail, and affirmed the testimony of the previous Wellpath witness, noting Dominguez had steadily grown less responsive and more disheveled over time, had poor eye contact and posture and had a poor or intermittent appetite.

This witness described Dominguez as “fixated” on UC Davis, and experienced delusions that he was still a student at the university, showing a “lack of awareness of reality,” with limited insight into his situation.

The worker/witness chose, she testified, not to remind Dominguez he was no longer enrolled in an effort to build rapport with him.

The witness said Dominguez denied experiencing any symptoms such as hearing voices or having suicidal thoughts.

In one conversation about future-oriented thinking, the witness said Dominguez had told her his dreams for the future were to buy a home and have a family and children in the Bay Area.

DDA van der Hoek on cross-examination asked whether Dominguez’s potential limited insight “affects his ability to understand the criminal case against him,” to which the witness responded she cannot be sure.

Van der Hoek brought up one instance in which the accused “did show some insight.” Notes the witness took during a meeting with Dominguez showed he “felt disappointed and upset he is in custody.” He also felt “disappointed in himself and what has happened to other people” and is “trying to focus on moving forward.”

Dominguez also never acted erratically or “flailed” in his cell, van der Hoek noted again. He also described Dominguez’s lack of engagement as a choice.

DDA van der Hoek also pointed out that Dominguez was never assessed to see if he was exaggerating or downplaying his symptoms.

After van der Hoek finished his examination, Hutchinson asked whether mentally ill people are able to help others assisting them. “It is possible that someone’s mental health symptoms can keep them from being able to advocate for their own needs,” said the witness.

Hutchinson closed by asking whether or not every patient with schizophrenia presents through erratic behavior or by responding to outward stimuli. The witness replied they did not, and affirmed people with schizophrenia can know where they are and still be mentally ill.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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