Suspect pleads not guilty in VA hospital killing

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Sedalia man charged with killing a fellow VA hospital patient in Columbia has pleaded not guilty and plans to cite mental illness in his defense.

Thirty-three-year-old Rudy Perez Jr. was arraigned Thursday in Boone County Circuit Court. He is charged with first-degree murder in the Feb. 1 death of 78-year-old Robert Hill of Warsaw at Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital.

Perez offered a second plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, excluding responsibility. Attorney David Tyson Smith says his client is schizophrenic and had not taken prescribed medication.

Perez was arrested in Sedalia three days before Hill’s death after a neighbor said Perez punched him in the face. He was released from the Pettis County jail 24 hours later without being charged.

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