Suspect in beating of elderly man to get mental exam

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published February 11, 2013

WARREN — A Canton man accused of brutally beating an elderly fellow patient at Warren mental health center will undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he’ll stand trial. 

Dajuan Whitlow, 23, appeared briefly in the 37th District Court Feb. 5 where his preliminary examination on the charge of assault with intent to commit murder was adjourned indefinitely after Judge Dean Ausilio granted a defense attorney’s request to have Whitlow evaluated by a forensic psychiatrist.

Police said Whitlow brutally assaulted an 80-year-old Chesterfield Township resident Jan. 27 while both men were being treated at the Behavioral Center of Michigan, on Ryan just south of 12 Mile Road.

The elderly man, allegedly beaten by Whitlow inside of the facility, remained in critical condition Feb. 5 with massive head injuries and serious damage to at least one of his eyes.

Whitlow remained held in the Macomb County Jail on a $500,000 cash or surety bond and will not return to court until doctors complete an assessment of his mental state to determine whether he can assist in his own defense and be held responsible for his actions.

After the brief hearing Feb. 5, defense attorney Todd Russell Perkins said his client is a college student with a supportive family who was transferred to the Behavioral Center of Michigan from Oakwood Annapolis Hospital in Wayne. Perkins said Whitlow was taken to the hospital for an evaluation after an incident of some kind at the family’s home in Canton.

Perkins, recently retained by Whitlow’s family, said he did not yet know why his client was hospitalized.

Warren police, however, had said Whitlow was taken to a hospital in Wayne after an encounter with police in that city resulted in an emergency petition for evaluation.

“There’s a clear indication of some psychiatric issue that needs to be uncovered,” Perkins said after the hearing. “He doesn’t appreciate the circumstances that bring him here.”

Perkins said a group of Whitlow’s family members attended the brief court hearing. 

“The family feels very bad for the family of the victim,” Perkins said. “Clearly it’s an emotional rollercoaster for the family.”

Warren police said the victim’s condition remained unchanged Feb. 5.

The city’s top police administrators said they’d continue to press for more information about how the assault occurred, and confirmed that the facility hadn’t been “overly forthcoming” with information about the assault.

Warren Police Commissioner Jere Green questioned why the men were in the same room at the facility.

Deputy Police Commissioner Louis Galasso said it was unclear how the attack occurred, and that investigators were not sure what security measures were in place.

“They were pretty much off the radar and never gave us cause for concern before this incident. In light of what transpired, it certainly is now,” Galasso said. “Is this a complete aberration, or was this a breakdown in their policies and procedures?”

Messages left for Behavioral Center of Michigan CEO Ryan Gunabalan were not returned.

An adjournment resulting from a requested psychiatric evaluation can take three months or more.

The charge of assault with intent to commit murder carries a maximum penalty of up to life in prison.