A 30-year-old probationer who tried to abduct a young boy from a Lake Elsinore park will be sent to a state mental hospital for an indeterminate period rather than prison after a Riverside jury found he was mentally incompetent and not aware of what he was doing.
Following two days of deliberations, jurors in the competency trial of Marcus Joseph DeWitt returned verdicts Tuesday afternoon, finding that, based on doctors’ testimony and the defendant’s statements, he was psychologically deficient.
On Jan. 28, the same jury convicted the defendant of attempted kidnapping of a minor for the purpose of committing a sex act and attempted lewd acts on a child under 14 years old.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz ruled there was reasonable doubt as to DeWitt’s mental condition, resulting in the competency trial. The judge scheduled a placement hearing for March 5 at the Riverside Hall of Justice. It’s unknown how long the defendant, who’s being held without bail at the Robert Presley Jail in downtown Riverside, may be required to undergo treatment.
Prosecutors and sheriff’s investigators said DeWitt entered Rosetta Canyon Sports Park in the 44400 block of Ardenwood way about 11:30 a.m. on March 11, 2019, and walked onto the playground, where he approached a 3-year- old boy and grabbed him by the arm as the toddler played inside a piece of playground equipment.
He was unable to pick up the boy due to the configuration of the equipment, so he turned his attention to a nearby 4-year-old, according to sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Fredericks.
DeWitt scooped up that boy and tried to flee, but “the victim’s parents and other family members observed the abduction and were able to catch DeWitt and wrestle the child out of his grasp,” Fredericks said.
He said the 6-foot-4, 275-pound defendant attempted to continue running but was pulled down by a male relative of the youngster. Additional witnesses helped hold DeWitt until deputies reached the scene and took him into custody without a struggle, the sergeant said.
No one was injured, including the children, Fredericks said.
According to court records, DeWitt has prior misdemeanor convictions for lewd and lascivious conduct, obstruction of justice, violating a court restraining order and vandalism.