A late-March trial setting has been scheduled for a 31-year-old man charged with the 2020 attempted murder of a Solano County jail guard while criminal proceedings continue in a separate 2018 case in which the defendant is accused of killing of a fellow transient in Fairfield.
Official court records show that Derek Edward Dunlap Jr., who appeared Wednesday in Department 23 for ongoing matters in both cases, heard Judge John B. Ellis’ order him to return for the trial setting in the attempted murder case at 8:30 a.m. March 30 in the Justice Center in Fairfield. Ellis previously scheduled Dunlap for trial on the murder charge at 9 a.m. April 3 in the Justice Center in Fairfield. The judge also set a trial management conference in that case at 8:30 a.m. March 30.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Julie Underwood leads the prosecution. Fairfield criminal defense attorney Sal Giambona represents Dunlap. The attorneys expect the murder trial to last two weeks, according to court documents.
As previously reported, Dunlap is accused of killing the transient on Feb. 20, 2018, and, while in Solano County Jail, allegedly assaulting and trying to kill a correctional officer on Feb. 8, 2020. Dunlap, who remains in jail without bail in both cases, has denied all the allegations in each.
At one point, as the cases wound their way through the county court system, Giambona told Ellis that he harbored “a doubt” about Dunlap’s mental competency.
Ellis then ordered what’s called a “1368 doctor’s report,” or a report by a psychiatrist or psychologist to gauge Dunlap’s mental competency, then suspended further criminal proceedings in the case.
Ellis appointed Dr. Terralyn Renfro, a licensed clinical psychologist in Fairfield, to examine Dunlap and prepare the report, which takes its numerical name from the Penal Code section about mental competency.
According to official court records, Ellis, reviewing the doctor’s report, later found Dunlap competent to stand trial in the attempted murder case, with criminal proceedings reinstated.
Dunlap is accused of the attempted premeditated murder of a custodial officer, felony assault upon a female custodial officer, and resisting, obstructing, and delaying a peace officer during the Feb. 8 attack in the Claybank Detention Facility in Fairfield.
According to court records from a preliminary hearing, Dunlap on that day was out of his cell pretending to use the phones in the middle of the jail module. He allegedly laid in wait for the jail guard, described as “petite,” to pass under the stairs that separated the phones from the cells.
Once her back was turned, Dunlap ran directly at her and grabbed her throat before she could see him coming. The defendant got the officer in a chokehold from behind and attempted to choke her. Another custodial officer heard the commotion from upstairs and came running to help her. Using a baton, he was able to get Dunlap to release her.
Dunlap then began to assault that officer. Other correctional officers came running to render help and were able to subdue him.
Further testimony from the hearing showed Dunlap was wearing a pair of shoes that he usually did not wear, according to a press release issued by Solano County District Attorney Krishna A. Abrams. Such shoes are typically worn when inmates intend to fight, she noted in the prepared statement.
The defendant also was found to have makeshift “body armor and jockstrap” covering his genitals. According to the correctional officers, Abrams pointed out in the press statement, that these are used when an inmate seeks to protect himself from harm during a fight.
Dunlap allegedly was heard by a number of officers to say, “You were lucky you were there. You saved her life,” and “You’re lucky you saved her this time.”
Detective Christopher Cavazos investigated the case.
If convicted at trial on the charges, Dunlap could face as much as 30 years to life, separate from the murder charge.
In the 2018 murder case, he was a Fairfield transient at the time he allegedly fatally stabbed another transient in Fairfield and was later confined for a time to a state hospital after legal proceedings.
At the time, Solano County Superior Court Judge Robert Bowers’ decision came after a mental health placement review and an order to show cause.
It also came after Bowers on Jan. 14, 2020, committed Dunlap to the Department of State Hospitals for a maximum term of life.
Court records indicate Giambona, at one point in 2019, also had doubted his client’s ability to understand court proceedings and requested a report under the mental competency statute.
Referred to MHM Services Inc. in Vallejo, a secure facility, Dunlap earlier had faced a mental competency evaluation. A doctor had apparently deemed him competent to stand trial, according to court records.
Court records available online indicated Bowers certified Dunlap’s mental competency on Oct. 26, 2020, and, on Nov. 2, criminal proceedings were reinstated.
In the murder case, Dunlap faces one count of first-degree murder with malice aforethought, with a special allegation of torture, an enhancement that could, if he is convicted, result in the death penalty or a prison sentence of life without the chance of parole. Dunlap also faces one charge of brandishing a deadly weapon in a threatening manner.
He is accused of killing Alexander Lind, 28, of Benicia, whose body was found on the morning of Feb. 20, 2018, in the 1200 block of Empire Street. Police say Lind was stabbed several times during a dispute.
According to police, Dunlap and Lind knew one another. Dunlap was arrested without incident on Feb. 21 after a bystander recognized him from a suspect photograph posted by the Fairfield Police Department.
Discussions during Dunlap’s first court date revealed he was the subject of an out-of-county warrant out of Santa Cruz County for making a criminal threat.