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DUI suspect to undergo mental evaluation after finally making court

The 84-year-old Palm Desert man who is charged in a crash that injured 10-year-old Adrian Grajeda on October 23, 2013, finally showed up to court on Tuesday after missing four court appearances in recent months.

According to John Hall with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, Malcolm Paterson did appear in court but the defense declared doubt as to his mental competence, so the judge order Paterson to be examined by a court-appointed psychologist.

Paterson’s next court appearance is scheduled for February 23, at which time the doctors report is expected to be complete.

The fourth time Paterson failed to show to court, the sheriff’s department received word that he was hospitalized at Eisenhower Medical Center. Paterson was allowed to remain hospitalized and the sheriff’s department said it would bring him to court if he didn’t appear on his own accord when medically capable of doing so.

KESQ/CBS Local 2 spoke with Paterson’s wife after he failed to appear to court for the third time. Evelyn Paterson said her husband began showing signs of dementia after he crashed into the Lincoln Elementary School playground in Palm Desert in October of 2013.

Paterson is charged with a felony count of driving under the influence causing injury, along with a sentence-enhancing allegation of great bodily injury.

He was driving a Chevrolet Cruze south on Portola Avenue, approaching a red light at Magnesia Falls Drive, at about 9:50 a.m. on Oct. 23, 2013, when he “mistakenly pressed the accelerator rather than the brake pedal when approaching traffic stopped at an intersection,” according to prosecutors.

Then he “pressed harder on the accelerator without realizing his mistake,” according to a declaration filed in support of an arrest warrant. Paterson’s car collided with another vehicle, veered onto a sidewalk, crashed into a traffic signal and finally struck the steel perimeter fence of Abraham Lincoln Elementary School on Rutledge Way in Palm Desert.

Debris from the crash struck Adrian, who was airlifted to a hospital, where his right leg was amputated. Other students were outside at the time, but no one else was hurt. Paterson stayed at the scene, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

Though a blood test showed Paterson’s blood-alcohol level was .04 percent, below the legal limit of 0.08 percent, his “actions throughout the events of the collision, combined with his measured (alcohol level), led me to believe that alcohol contributed to a mental impairment, making him unable to operate a motor vehicle in a safe manner,” sheriff’s Deputy John Cleary wrote in the declaration.

News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 will keep you up-to-date as Paterson’s case moves forward in court.

KESQ News Team

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