General Crime

Sonoma County Jury Convicts Houston Herczog Of First-Degree Murder Of Killing Father In 2011

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A Sonoma County jury this afternoon convicted Houston Herczog, 22, of the first-degree murder of his father Mark in their Santa Rosa home in 2011. The nine women and three men on the jury deliberated about six hours since Friday. They will return to Sonoma County Superior Court Tuesday at 10 a.m. to hear evidence at the sanity phase of the trial. Herczog has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Deputy Public Defender Karen Silver said she was shocked by the first-degree murder conviction. In her closing argument she told the jury the slaying was voluntary manslaughter and not first-degree murder because Herczog was having delusions and hallucinations when he stabbed his 63-year-old father dozens of times and smashed his skull with a guitar amplifier in the kitchen of their Rincon Valley home on Nov. 21, 2011. In his closing statement to the jury, Deputy District Attorney Robert Waner argued for a first-degree premeditated murder.

Waner said Herczog was angry at his father because he confronted him about stealing the drug Adderall, an amphetamine, from his mother hours before the slaying. “It pissed him off so he grabbed a knife and killed his dad,” Waner said. Waner said psychiatrists who examined Herczog and concluded he was schizophrenic relied heavily on Herczog’s self-serving account of the motive for the murder. He said all of Herczog’s statements to the doctors should be viewed with distrust. In an interview with a Santa Rosa police officer, Herczog said his father mocked him and suggested he was having an incestuous relationship with his mother. Waner said even if Herczog was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the murder it still didn’t rule out his ability to form an intention to kill his father. He said people suffering from schizophrenia have varying abilities to function, and Herczog was able to drive a car, play guitar and spend time on a computer days before the homicide. Silver said the injuries Mark Herczog suffered are consistent with those that would be inflicted by a person in a psychotic frenzy. She said the crux of the case was Herzog was suffering from a mental illness that prevented his ability to form an intention to kill his father. “The only way to explain this is his craziness,” Silver told the jury Friday.

She said Herczog’s comments about his father’s allegations that he made to the police officer who interviewed him four hours after the murder didn’t make sense. Silver said Herczog thought his father was a “monster” and was evil, and he was in a self-preservation mode at the time of the killing. Silver said the prosecution didn’t prove Herczog did not have a mental illness. Waner said he could not comment on the verdict. Silver said four psychiatrists are scheduled to testify at the sanity phase of the trial, and the testimony will be about Herczog’s childhood and adolescence and not about the murder.

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