SAN JOSE -- A man who clubbed an acquaintance to death with a baseball bat he picked off a shelf at a Milpitas sporting goods store in June was found not guilty by reason of insanity, prosecutors said Thursday.
Nathaniel Manlangit, 26, pleaded to the charge on Wednesday after doctors for both the prosecution and defense agreed that it was the appropriate finding, said prosecutor Angela Bernhard.
"Their doctor concluded he was incapable to determine right from wrong due to his mental illness, and our doctor's conclusion was the same," Bernhard said.
According to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, such a finding can come only if the defendant, by reason of mental disease or defect, could not know or understand the nature of the act, or distinguish between right and wrong when the crime was committed.
Manlangit will be committed to a locked mental facility indefinitely, until doctors and the court can determine if he has regained his sanity, Bernhard said. Legally, that's a minimum of 180 days, but some patients end up institutionalized for the rest of their lives, she said.
"It's not something that can be predicted," Bernhard said. "There are a lot of safeguards before he ultimately can be released, and it will be dealt with through a criminal court."
Surveillance footage from the Sports Authority at the Great Mall showed Manlangit chase down and beat his acquaintance, 31-year-old Carlos Pasqual Vargas-Caloca, with a baseball bat shortly before 11 a.m. June 7. The video backed up witness reports that Manlangit had knocked Vargas-Caloca to the ground and then repeatedly swung the bat at his head.
While Manlangit told arriving officers that Vargas-Caloca had attacked him with a knife, he had no injuries, and no such weapon was ever found.
Bernhard would not give specifics regarding Manlangit's mental state, citing medical privacy laws, but said he appeared to be "delusional" and "at the time his mental illness was clearly affecting him."
Public defender Rod O'Connor described Manlangit as a "good-hearted young man from a loving family who unfortunately suffers from a serious mental illness, schizophrenia."
He said Manlangit's family unsuccessfully tried to get him into a county conservatorship, but proceedings were dismissed and Manlangit ended up "homeless, unmedicated, not under proper care and in the grip of a profound mental illness."
O'Connor said the Sports Authority slaying happened because Manlangit perceived a nonexistent threat from Vargas-Caloca, adding that the District Attorney's Office is to be commended for recognizing his client's illness and agreeing to send him to a state mental hospital instead of prison.
Both O'Connor and Bernhard called it a sad situation. "There's a family who has lost a son and a brother," Bernhard said, "and there's no real explanation or understanding why."
Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.