Suspect’s age: 16
Victim: Jonathan Hall, 27, Delmar Noel Soto-Artega, 24, Ricardo Gomez, 35, & Jesus Sanchez-Espinoza, 37
Crime location: St. Roch, Louisiana
Crime date: December 2010
Charges: Aggravated burglary, attempted armed robbery, second-degree kidnapping, rape, attempted second degree murder, & second-degree murder
In December 2010, residents of St. Roch, Louisiana endured a terrifying crime spree involving home invasions, kidnappings, rapes and murders. A suspect has been charged but ruled incompetent to stand trial.
New Orleans police and prosecutors Friday announced a lengthy indictment of a 16-year-old whom they accuse of carrying out a shocking crime spree in December, capped by three murders on one night in the St. Roch area.
Before Friday’s announcement, Cedrick Berryhill had already been arrested and indicted as an adult on attempted murder and aggravated burglary charges in the assault of a woman on Dec. 23 in the 1400 block of Port Street. The new indictment treats the 16-year-old as an adult offender, officials said. NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas called Berryhill a “very dangerous young man” at a news conference with Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro. A state grand jury handed up a 19-count indictment against Berryhill after an “extensive and through investigation” by the two offices, Serpas said. An attorney for Berryhill said his family was “taken aback” and “totally shocked” by the long list of crimes the 16-year-old is accused of committing. “This is not the kind of individual he is,” Richard Richthofen Jr. said. Richthofen said he has met with his client since his arrest and the earlier indictment in January and has formed doubts about Berryhill’s mental capabilities. Online court records show that Richthofen asked that psychiatrists evaluate his client’s ability to assist with his own defense, a request that was granted by Criminal District Judge Julian Parker. Three of the killings that Berryhill is accused of committing also occurred on Dec. 23, possibly within an hour or so. At least two of them appeared to be home invasions, according to the initial police accounts. They included the death of Jonathan Hall, a 27-year-old killed in his house at 1225 St. Roch Ave., whom police said was discovered by his roommate at 10:43 p.m. That same night, Delmar Noel Soto-Artega, 24, was fatally shot inside a house in the 1800 block of Allen Street, while two other people were also wounded in the attack. Soto-Artega was pronounced dead at 11:10 p.m., a spokesman for the Orleans Parish coroner’s office said that week. A homicide department document placed the time of the crime at 10:30 p.m. About eight blocks away, at 1509 Frenchmen St., Ricardo Gomez, 35, was shot in the neck, according to initial police accounts. Neighbors called the police at about 11 p.m. that night after hearing gunshots, police said. Gomez, who was identified by the coroner’s office as Ricardo Gomez-Espinoza, survived the wound for a couple of weeks, but he died in January. Police indicated earlier in the investigation that Gomez told officers he let the man into the house. After he demanded money, Gomez gave him $11, but the suspect shot him before fleeing. A news release by the Orleans Parish district attorney’s office states that the fourth killing Berryhill is accused of committing also occurred on Dec. 23. But police records show that Jesus Sanchez-Espinoza was killed four days later on the night of Dec. 27. Sanchez-Espinoza was fatally shot at 1819 N. Prieur St. Police reports at the time said Sanchez-Espinoza’s roommates said he was in the front room of the residence talking to his wife on a cell phone. There was no forced entry into the home. He died at the scene, according to the coroner’s office. Along with the second-degree murder charges for each of these killings, Berryhill was charged with associated crimes including various counts of attempted second-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping, aggravated burglary and attempted armed robbery. In a separate incident on Dec. 13, Berryhill is also accused of aggravated burglary, second-degree kidnapping and two counts of aggravated rape in the 1400 block of St. Ferdinand Street. “This kid obviously is a very dangerous predator who has no regard for the social systems that we live in,” Serpas said at Friday’s news conference. Cannizzaro said his office received many e-mail messages about Berryhill, even more than after the tragic killing of 2-year-old Jeremy Galmon in September 2010. “Many citizens came forward and helped us in this,” he said. Although Serpas has emphasized that the majority of the murders in New Orleans occur between people engaged in criminal activity who know each other, these murders don’t fit that profile, he said. “This is a case where we believe strangers were attacked by a stranger,” Serpas said. “And look at how quickly we were able to get assistance from the community to bring this case to a conclusion with an indictment and hopefully a successful prosecution.”
16-year-old indicted on long list of violent crime charges
NEWORLEANS- A teenager is accused of being a one-man violent crime wave in the city’s St Roch neighborhood.
Thursday, an Orleans Parish grand jury returned a 19-count indictment against 16-year-old Cedrick Berryhill, in a string of murders and burglaries in December.
‘This kid obviously is a very dangerous predator who has no regard for the social systems that we live in,’ said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas.
According to his indictment, Berryhill is charged with four counts of second-degree murder, two counts of aggravated rape, five counts of aggravated burlary, two counts of kidnapping, five counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of attempted armed robbery.
‘Meaningful juvenile justice has been lost upon us here when Mr. Berryhill has been in and out and needs to be held accountable for these tremendous crime he’s responsible for we believe,’ said Chief Serpas.
Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro says he will try Berryhill as an adult.
‘Certainly we think this is a case which begs and screams for us to bring and tranfer to the adult court for prosecution in order to obtain for him the most serious penalty available that is a life sentence and keep him off the streets a long as we possibly can,’ said Cannizzaro.
Berryhill is indicted for crimes that happened on December 13 and December 23 of last year.
Authorities say there’s a possibility the teenager may have committed other crimes.
‘We may be getting some additional complaints of activity that occurred in between those times,’ said Cannizzaro.
Berryhill has been in jail since January.
He was arested on charges that he entered a home on Port Street, demanded money, then tried to sexually assault a woman inside the home.
His bail is now set a $19 million.
On Thursday, February 24, 2011, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office obtained a nineteen count indictment of Cedric Berryhill that included:
The Grand Jury returned a True Bill indicting Berryhill, 16, with Aggravated Burglary, Second Degree Kidnapping and two counts of Aggravated Rape. The crimes occurred on December 13,2010, in the 1400 block of St. Ferdinand Street.
The Grand Jury returned a True Bill indicting Berryhill, 16, with Aggravated Burglary, Second Degree Kidnapping and Attempted Second Degree Murder of a seventeen-year-old male. The crimes occurred on December 23, 2010, in the 1400 block of Port St.
The Grand Jury returned a True Bill indicting Berryhill, 16, with Aggravated Burglary and Second Degree Murder of Jonathan Hall, 27. The crimes occurred on December 23, 2010, at 1225 St. Roch Ave.
The Grand Jury returned a True Bill indicting Berryhill, 16, with Aggravated Burglary and Second Degree Murder of Jesus Sanchez-Espinoza, 37. The crimes occurred on December 23, 2010, at 1819 North Prieur Street.
The Grand Jury returned a True Bill indicting Berryhill, 16, with Second Degree Kidnapping, Aggravated Burglary, two counts of Attempted Second Degree Murder, and one count of Second Degree Murder of Delmar Noel Soto-Artega, 24. The crimes occurred on December 23, 2010, in the 1800 block of Allen Street.
The Grand Jury returned a True Bill indicting Berryhill, 16, with Attempted Armed Robbery and Second Degree Murder of Ricardo Gomez, 35. The crimes occurred on December 23, 2010, at 1509 Frenchman Street.
Alleged spree killer’s case grinds to halt over mental health questions
Days after a doctor determined that he has schizophrenia combined with the language skills of a 6-year-old, a judge shipped the man accused of a killing spree in St. Roch back to a state mental hospital.
In a ruling last week, Criminal District Court Judge Byron C. Williams essentially agreed with a psychologist who testified for Cedrick Berryhill’s defense that he is too mentally enfeebled to understand a recent plea offer in connection with a series of killings, robberies and rapes in 2010.
The judge sent Berryhill, 23, back to the state hospital in East Feliciana Parish to be treated until he is fit to stand trial.
That decision is only the latest stumbling block on the path to trial for Berryhill, who was arrested at age 16 in December 2010.
When authorities unfurled a 19-count indictment against Berryhill in February 2011, then-Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas called him a “a very dangerous predator.” Police said he had killed four men, including three in one night, while robbing and raping other victims.
The seemingly random crimes sent fear racing through St. Roch in the waning days of 2010.
Police said Berryhill started with an aggravated burglary, second-degree kidnapping and two aggravated rapes in the 1400 block of St. Ferdinand Street on Dec. 13, 2010.
They said he then committed three killings within a span of hours on Dec. 23. Jonathan Hall, 27, was found shot inside his house in the 1200 block of St. Roch Avenue. Delmar Noel Soto-Artega, 24, was killed in a house in the 1800 block of Allen Street. Ricardo Gomez, 35, who died the next month, was shot in the 1500 block of Frenchmen Street.
Berryhill was also accused in the Dec. 27 shooting death of Jesus Sanchez-Espinoza, who was cut down as he talked to his wife on the phone in the 1800 block of North Prieur Street.
If convicted as charged, Berryhill does not face an automatic sentence of life without parole, the normal penalty for second-degree murder. Because he was a juvenile at the time of the crimes, he could present evidence about his mental health in a bid to make himself one day eligible for release.
But prosecutors have never come close to putting Berryhill on trial. The tone for years of court proceedings was set by a May 2011 finding from then-Criminal District Court Judge Julian Parker that Berryhill was unfit to stand trial.
The next year, a Tulane University physician reported that Berryhill had a “significant” prior mental health history, including a seizure disorder and the removal of a brain tumor when he was a child. He also tried to hang himself in Orleans Parish Prison, according to the report.
In June 2012, Parker found Berryhill “to be both a danger to himself and others” and ordered him committed on a more permanent basis to the East Louisiana State Hospital, the mental hospital in East Feliciana Parish.
Court records suggest that Berryhill remained at the hospital until March 2015, when he was found competent for trial. He was returned to the custody of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, which housed him in the mental health unit at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, a state prison in St. Gabriel.
Even as Berryhill’s criminal case sputtered back to life, however, questions remained about his mental state before and after his arrest.
In July of this year, his defense attorneys at the Orleans Public Defenders made a motion to quash his two statements to police on the grounds that he did not understand his right against self-incrimination. Meanwhile, a doctor who testified for his defense said she suspected that he would be unable to assist his lawyers at a trial.
Dr. Kristen Luscher, a forensic psychologist, interviewed Berryhill in February 2016 and on Sept. 8 of this year. The report she submitted to the court this month states that Berryhill was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder as a child. He struggled through school and was held back twice. At the Schwarz Alternative School, he racked up 71 absences and six suspensions until he was expelled.
Since his arrest, he has received psychotropic medications for previously undiagnosed schizophrenia.
The doctor said that in a battery of tests last year, Berryhill read at the level of a 9-year-old, spoke at the level of a 6-year-old and listened at the level of an 8-year-old. He had an IQ level of 66.
The doctor said that most troubling for the defense, Berryhill appeared to have a limited understanding of the accusations against him. She added that he failed to grasp his potential way of avoiding a life sentence — a plea deal with prosecutors.
Berryhill received the undisclosed plea offer from the District Attorney’s Office in June.
Luscher said Berryhill told her he rejected the plea deal because “I will go home.”
She said he “did not appear to appreciate the seriousness of the charges against him or realistic outcomes that could result.”
Luscher said that in combination with his schizophrenia, his mental disability prevented him from being able to assist his attorneys in his defense.
Man accused in 2010 St. Roch crime spree again deemed mentally incompetent for trial
September 26, 2019
A New Orleans judge ruled last week that a man accused of a frenzied crime spree in St. Roch nearly nine years ago is still not mentally competent to stand trial.
But ad hoc Criminal District Court Judge Dennis Waldron delayed ruling on whether Cedric Berryhill is “irrestorably” incompetent, which would mean no trial for the foreseeable future on the wide range of kidnapping, rape and murder charges that date to when Berryhill was a ninth-grader.
Waldron pushed back a decision on that larger question until Jan. 16. Until then, Berryhill will return to the state forensic mental hospital in Jackson.
Berryhill, now 25, has one of the oldest cases on the criminal court docket. Since his arrest in December 2010, he has bounced between the New Orleans jail and the Jackson hospital while attorneys argue over whether he is mentally sound.
Authorities described Berryhill as a dangerous predator when they unveiled a 19-count indictment against him in February 2011, charging him with killing four men, including three in one night, while robbing and raping other victims during terrifying home invasions.
The crimes took place in a small slice of the St. Roch neighborhood over a period of days, authorities said.
But defense attorneys have painted a picture of a youth who suffered from schizophrenia and lost brain functioning after doctors removed a tumor.
Waldron’s decision was at least the fifth time a judge has found Berryhill incompetent for trial. The judge first heard testimony from doctors in the latest round of competency hearings 13 months ago.
Speaking in court on Thursday, defense attorney Carrie Ellis of the Orleans Public Defenders said she does not believe that psychiatrists can ever make Berryhill ready for trial. The law requires defendants to be able to understand the accusations against them and assist their attorneys.
“The limitations he has are static,” Ellis said. “We have reached that point now where there’s nothing that can restore that.”
However, Assistant District Attorney Sarah Dawkins noted that Berryhill was previously found competent, before being found incompetent again.
She pointed to the opinion of doctors at the Eastern Louisiana Mental Health System in Jackson that Berryhill is ready for trial. Meanwhile, one doctor said the removal of Berryhill’s tumor affected only his motor skills, not his thinking.
“I don’t think anybody disagrees that Mr. Berryhill does suffer from some cognitive defects,” Dawkins said. “While he has schizophrenia, that is being treated medically, and the cognitive defects he has do not rise to the level to render him incompetent, let alone irrestorably incompetent.”
If the judge finds Berryhill irrestorably incompetent, he will likely be sent to the Jackson facility for an indefinite period of time. However, the charges against him would remain in place, and he could still be tried at some future date.
Berryhill’s competency to stand trial is distinct from the question of his sanity at the time of the crime spree.