Jurors convicted a 22-year-old Santa Rosa man of first-degree murder Monday in the stabbing death of his father in the kitchen of their Rincon Valley home.
The nine-woman, three-man panel rejected possible lesser charges for Houston Wolfe Herczog, who claimed he killed Mark Herczog, 63, during a psychotic break.
His lawyer, Karen Silver, suggested a verdict of voluntary manslaughter, saying he was incapable of premeditation or planning.
The jury deliberated less than one day before reaching its verdict.
"I'm shocked," Silver said outside court. "I thought at the very least second-degree murder."
Jurors apparently didn't accept the assertion that Herczog's judgment was clouded by delusions that his father was possessed by an evil force and trying to kill him. Nor did they find that the father provoked Herczog.
A second trial will begin Tuesday to determine if Herczog was sane at the time.
If jurors find he was mentally impaired, he could be sentenced to a state hospital. If he is deemed to have been in control of his faculties, he faces a punishment of 25 years to life in prison.
The slaying happened in November 2011 after Herczog returned from a late-night visit to his divorced mother's house. He was suspected of stealing her prescription stimulant, Adderall.
When Mark Herczog confronted him, his son grabbed a kitchen knife and began stabbing him in the face, neck and torso. He smashed his father's head with a guitar amplifier as he lay on the floor.
Herczog's sister was awakened by her father's screams. She summoned police, who arrived in time to see Herczog emerge from the kitchen with bloody hands. He reportedly admitted the crime to arresting officers.
His family said he was suffering mental illness and asked that he not be sent to prison. Three doctors confirmed that belief by diagnosing Herczog with schizophrenia. A fourth doctor said he was sane but in a drug-induced psychosis.
The second phase of the trial will focus on testimony from the doctors and several family members.
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shelters for Pawnee fire evacuees
Lower Lake High School, 9430 Lake St., Lower Lake, is the official shelter established for people evacuating from the Pawnee fire. It is equipped to handle animals.
The Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge, 15900 E. Highway 20, Clearlake Oaks, is not authorized by the Office of Emergency Services but is also sheltering fire evacuees, mostly people in campers and RVs who want their animals with them.
There is an authorized Lake County animal services station in an open field at Highway 53 and Anderson Ridge Road in Lower Lake.