Loophole may cause release of 86-year-old murder suspect

Vyktor Emilio Arce sits in the hallway of the Hollywood apartment where authorities say Nattie Kennebrew attempted to shoot him after killing a handyman.
(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge is expected Wednesday morning to decide whether an 86-year-old murder defendant should be released from custody and into the care of his son.

Nattie Kennebrew, who is legally blind, in a wheelchair and suffers from severe dementia, is charged with killing an apartment handyman in 2009. After a preliminary hearing, Kennebrew was ordered to stand trial.

But before the case went to a jury, his lawyer successfully argued that Kennebrew was not competent to stand trial and he was later transferred to Patton State Hospital, where a defendant can be held no more than three years under state law.


Prosecutors have tried to keep Kennebrew from being released by asking Los Angeles County to become Kennebrew’s public guardian, a move that would allow him to be held in a state mental facility.

The Public Guardian, under the county’s Department of Mental Health, which manages about 3,000 people, denied prosecutors’ request. The district attorney’s bid to have a probate court judge order public guardianship also failed.

“We’ve done everything within the criminal laws and beyond to avoid the release of Mr. Kennebrew,” said Jean Guccione, spokeswoman for Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey.

Judge Norman Shapiro on Wednesday is expected to release Kennebrew into the custody of his son, who lives in Michigan, but keep the case open.

Kennebrew is charged with fatally shooting handyman Gerardo Ramos, 46, on the afternoon of Jan. 28, 2009, at a Hollywood apartment building.

A military veteran and retired locksmith, Kennebrew had been living at the building for more than 15 years. Police said Kennebrew believed that Ramos had been trying to steal his benefits from the Veterans Administration.


Kennebrew shot Ramos multiple times, including once in the head and twice in the back, police said. He also allegedly attempted to shoot the apartment manager, Vyktor Arce, twice in the chest, but the .357-magnum handgun didn’t fire.

Arce said he is still haunted by memories of the shooting and can’t believe Kennebrew could be released.

“This man took a father, grandfather and husband. Now he has the right to walk away?” Arce said. “That’s not right. His son will enjoy the last years of his company. What about all the people he left behind. We don’t have that. It’s not right at all.”


Just looking at your phone while driving is now a crime

Man tries to escape speeding ticket by running into ocean


Rick Warren: I’ve cried tears of grief, joy since son’s suicide

Twitter: @anblanx