The Collinsville man accused of fatally stabbing an Edwardsville couple was picked up by police who responded to a “mental subject” call in December 2017, and he was taken to a Granite City hospital that has a psychiatric unit.
Zachary Capers spent at most a couple of months at the hospital. And even though police in Madison County responded to subsequent calls involving Capers, some of which involved strange behavior and some of which resulted in criminal charges, the docket entries in his court cases have no indications that a mental-health evaluation was sought for Capers.
Now, however, lawyers are questioning his mental health.
Lois and Michael Ladd
"We are looking into it," Madison County Public Defender John Rekowski said Tuesday. He said his office, which is representing Capers, has already begun seeking evidence regarding Capers' mental health.
According to a Collinsville Police report, officers were called on Dec. 2, 2017, to a Collinsville location by a brother of Zachary Capers.
Capers is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of Michael and Lois Ladd on March 17.
The brief Collinsville report states that the brother contacted police because Capers “has been living with him and has not been acting right.” The report then states: “Wanting an officer to speak with him, possible 10-96.”
In the police 10-code system, 10-96 means “mental subject.”
The report then states that a Collinsville officer was en route to Gateway Regional Medical Center in Granite City “with one male voluntary.”
It’s not clear what happened with Capers at Gateway after that. But by Jan. 26, 2018, he again was showing up in police reports. On that date, police were called to a report of “suspicious activity” involving Capers. The report says Capers went into a wireless phone store and “asked if they dealt with cellphones.” Capers “became uneasy and left” when an employee said the store was working on some phones for police, according to the report.
The Collinsville Police Department’s subsequent contacts with Capers included:
- On Feb. 1, 2018, police were called for a report of a person “acting strangely” in downtown Collinsville. It doesn’t appear that police made contact with Capers as a result of that call. But the report notes that the “description matched Zachary Capers.”
- On Feb. 9, 2018, police were called to a St. Louis Bread Co. restaurant for a report of a man being in the bathroom for more than 30 minutes. “Last time he was in there, he made a deal about them not letting him use the phone,” the report states.” The report also states that Capers was “possibly schizo, was talking to himself.”
- On Oct. 3, 2018, police were called to Ramon’s restaurant. An employee told police that Capers “was walking around building suspiciously then came inside, left backpack at table, and was standing in stall for 20-25 minutes.” The employee said Capers attempted to pay for a meal with a credit card, but the card was declined.
- On Nov. 17, 2018, police were called to the area of West Main Street and Sycamore Street for a report of a man walking in traffic, yelling and cursing at motorists. Capers told police he was not walking in the roadway, and that he was just “singing and dancing,” the report states.
The Collinsville Police Department’s most recent call involving Capers came less than two months ago, on Feb. 14. Police were called to a home on Bellevue Drive for a report of a squatter. The home was for sale and temporarily vacant. A woman who was trying to sell the home for her grandmother told police that the real estate agent had gone into the home and noticed “a bad smell.”
Police searched the home and found a backpack containing a document that bore Capers’ name. They also found that a window had been removed.
The report states that the granddaughter “was indecisive about pursuing charges on behalf of her grandmother.” It also states that the case “will remain open with further investigative follow-up to be conducted by the reporting officer and documented in supplemental reports.”
Capers also has had a number of run-ins with police in the Edwardsville area during the past couple of years, including:
- In November 2017, charged with trespassing at Dairy Queen in Edwardsville.
- In July 2018, charged with trespassing for allegedly entering the basement common area of an apartment building on Hillsboro Avenue in Edwardsville – twice in one day.
- Earlier this year, on Jan. 16, Capers was picked up by campus police at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville after a caller reported seeing someone trying to get into locked offices and classrooms. Capers told police he was only looking for wifi service. Campus police took him to the Madison County Jail, where he was held briefly until Scott County authorities picked him up for a pending vehicle-theft charge there.
- In September 2017, he was charged in Madison County with felony possession of a stolen vehicle.
In the docket entries for the half-dozen criminal cases that Capers had pending in Madison County Circuit Court prior to the killings of the Ladds, there appear to be no mentions of referring Capers for a mental evaluation or having him examined to determine his fitness to stand trial. He repeatedly was released from custody on recognizance bonds, which are promises to appear in court later and do not require the posting of cash.
Rekowski said that, as far as he knows, there has never been any commitment action or other type of court action taken regarding Capers' mental health.
Rekowski declined to discuss the Capers case in detail. But in general, he said, "We have dismantled the mental health system in this country and in Illinois. It used to be that people who had a mental illness were dealt with in a civil setting before they did something terrible. Now, it seems we only look at these people once they've done something terrible. We're doing it backwards."
The bodies of the Ladds were found in their home on March 18, after police were notified that Lois Ladd had not reported to work.
Authorities have not offered a motive for the killings. Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.