Alleged VA Murderer Pleads Not Guilty

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COLUMBIA - The man who allegedly killed another patient at the Truman VA Hospital appeared in court Monday for his arraignment.

Rudy Perez Jr. pleaded not guilty to one charge of first degree murder by reason of mental disease. Perez and and his attorney, David Tyson Smith say Perez is schizophrenic and was unable to understand his actions. Perez is accused of murdering Robert Hill of Warsaw, Mo. on February 1.

Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight said he was not surprised by the not guilty plea.  Knight met with Perez and his attorney leading up to the arraignment. "It wasn't like it was a surprise today, I had a little bit of advance notice," Knight said.

Knight said the next step in the process will be the actual trial. During that trial the burden of proof falls on the defense to to prove Perez was not mentally capable of understanding his actions at the time of the crime.

"The defense has the burden of proof to prove that a defendant suffered from a mental disease or defect...and as a result of that mental disease or defect the defendant was unable to appreciate the nature, quality or wrongfulness of his or her conduct," Knight said.

Knight said there is no time table set for Perez's trial, but it usually takes nine or 10 months for murder cases to move to trial.