A young man accused of bludgeoning his 64-year-old father to death with 12-pound dumbbells as he slept in their University City apartment was ordered by a judge Wednesday to undergo a mental-competency evaluation.
Attorneys for Nikola Chivatchev, 24, told Judge Jeffrey Fraser their client was having trouble understanding the nature of the criminal proceedings, said Deputy District Attorney Michael McCann.
Chivatchev — who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to murdering his father Alexander — will be examined by doctors to see if he understands the nature of the charges against him and can assist his attorneys at trial.
A hearing is scheduled May 24 to determine if criminal proceedings will be reinstated or the defendant is deemed mentally incompetent and sent to a state mental hospital.
Chivatchev was arrested in the early morning hours of Oct. 7, shortly after he allegedly attacked his father, hitting the older man several times in the head, authorities said.
San Diego police Officer Steve Waldheim testified at a preliminary hearing last year that when he got to the scene, a man was asking the defendant why he killed his father.
"Because he's an (expletive)," the defendant responded, according to the officer.
The defendant, wearing only boxer shorts, was yelling and appeared to be very "amped up,"Waldheim said.
Sgt. Duane Voss testified that he saw a trail of blood leading from the kitchen to a bedroom when he entered the apartment on Judicial Drive.
Voss said he saw two bare feet sticking out from a comforter and pieces of bone fragments and brain matter scattered on the bed.
The sergeant said the victim had massive trauma to the head, and there was no doubt he was dead.
Once he exited back to the hallway, Voss said the defendant blurted out, "I told you I killed him."
The defendant's mother, Ludmilla "Lucy" Chivatchev, testified that she went to bed around 9:30 p.m. Oct. 6 and heard her son and husband talking.
After her husband came to bed, her son entered the bedroom and wanted to talk, so her spouse took a pillow and comforter and went to sleep in his son's room, Ludmilla Chivatchev testified.
Her son asked if his father was good to her and if he had ever beaten her, to which she responded no, the woman testified.
The woman said her son eventually left her bedroom, came back and left again, and she eventually got up to check on him.
On her way to the apartment balcony, the woman said she heard a noise coming from her son's bedroom and ran there.
In the darkness, she said she saw her husband lying on a bed "and my son next to him, hitting him."
Ludmilla Chivatchev said she tried to pull her son away, then wrested a dumbbell away from him and ran screaming down a hallway.
She said she eventually ran back into the room and saw her son hitting his father with a second dumbbell.
"There was blood all over," she said.
She testified that her son was saying something, but she couldn't remember what it was.
The witness told defense attorney Michael Garcia that her son's demeanor started to change about four years ago, when he withdrew and preferred to be alone. He began drinking, refusing to share anything and didn't have a lot of friends, the woman testified.
She said she and her husband took their son to a doctor and got him some medication, but he took it for a week to 10 days and stopped.
The mother she was concerned with injuries her son had gotten after he got involved with boxing after high school.
Earlier that year, the defendant's withdrawal got worse and he would lie in his room looking up at the ceiling without blinking, his mother testified.
Last summer, while vacationing in Bulgaria, her son was at the beach with a friend's daughter and other young people when he ran into the water fully clothed, then walked home with his eyes closed, Ludmilla Chivatchev testified.
Once back home, her son would spend days and weeks locked up in his room. As hard as they tried to get him to talk, he wouldn't say anything to his parents, Ludmilla Chivatchev said.
In May, her husband was sitting in a chair in the apartment and the defendant knocked him over, his mother testified. She said she went to her son's room and rubbed his hand to calm him down as she had done many times before.
Regarding the fatal attack, "I think he didn't know what he was doing," she said, saying
"voices" may have been talking to her son.
The woman speculated that a chemical imbalance in the brain or voices commanding her son to do things may have contributed to the attack.
"We were convinced he was sick," the mother said.
She said Nikola Chivatchev had told his father earlier, "You don't know what's in my head. It's a hell in my head."
Chivatchev faces 26 years to life in prison if convicted.