By all accounts, Pedro Custodio killed a man following a dispute in Waterbury in 1991.
But for 18 years, Custodio literally got away with murder, remaining a free man after a state mental hospital released him without telling the judge or prosecutor who handled the case. It wasn't until a court clerk noticed the mistake in 2010 that Custodio was located again.
It's safe to say the now 79-year-old man will remain accounted for going forward. Last week, the state Supreme Court rejected Custodio's claims that he should not have to remain in the state's custody and be subject to periodic mental competency exams.
In fact, the justices, in a short per curiam opinion, essentially said that debating the legal issues were not worth their time and that the state Appellate Court had already ruled correctly in siding with a trial judge who ordered Custodio back into state custody.
"Because that court properly resolved those issues and fully addressed all related arguments, we adopt the Appellate Court's opinion as a proper statement of [those] issue[s] and the applicable law concerning [those] issue[s]," the court opinion stated. "It would serve no useful purpose for us to repeat the discussion contained therein."
Senior Assistant State's Attorney Robert Scheinblum said last week's decision was an important one for public safety. ''The Supreme Court's decision ... recognizes the Superior Court's ability to protect public safety by conditioning an incompetent murder defendant's release on the requirement that he submit to periodic competency exams while he remains at liberty,'' Scheinblum said.
In 1991, Pedro Custodio fired several bullets from point-blank range into the neck of Americo Pagan Cruz while the two men were standing on Cherry Street in Waterbury. Custodio was soon arrested and charged with murder. Following a hearing, the trial court judge found probable cause to believe Custodio had committed the murder.
Later that year, following a competency hearing, the judge determined that Custodio was not mentally competent to stand trial. He was placed in the custody of the Commissioner of Mental Health in what's now called the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
In early 1992, it was determined that Custodio was not likely to regain his competence in order to stand trial for the murder charge. The judge ordered Custodio to be committed to a mental health department facility, in this case the Fairfield Hills state psychiatric hospital.
Sometime that year, however, the hospital released Custodio, who went to live with his brother, and neither the judge nor the prosecutor were informed. Nobody noticed for 18 years.