Schizophrenia aggravated by years of consuming caffeine-laden energy drinks has left a man mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges that he killed his sister, mother and grandmother with a wrench in a Maple Grove home in the summer of 2020.

David R. Ekers, 36, is charged with three counts of second-degree intentional murder in connection with the attacks in July 2020 that killed his sister, 34-year-old Eleanor Ekers; his mother, 63-year-old Linda Ekers; and his grandmother, 86-year-old Darlene Broste.

However, criminal proceedings were put on hold in Hennepin County District Court last week, when Judge Lisa Janzen ruled that David Ekers "does not have the ability to participate in his defense with a reasonable degree of understanding or to rationally participate in his defense. His psychotic thinking currently results in impaired judgment, reasoning, and decisionmaking."

Janzen continued that Ekers "is incompetent [to go on trial] due to his inability to recognize that he suffers from a mental illness, and thus, he is unable to rationally consider whether to raise such a defense."

Ekers, who lived in Ply­mouth at the time of the killings, remains in custody while he receives psychological treatment at the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center until a status hearing on his competency, scheduled for April 26.

Defense attorney Melissa Fraser said Thursday that "I respect Judge Janzen highly, and I defer to her opinions with great deference." The County Attorney's Office declined to respond to the ruling.

Multiple doctors have examined Ekers in the time since his arrest soon after the killings, and all diagnosed his schizophrenia and the influence of energy drink abuse on his mental state, the judge's ruling read.

Janzen wrote that her finding of incompetence was in large part based on a report from Dr. Jennifer Harrison, of the state Department of Human Services, who completed a competency evaluation of Ekers.

Janzen's ruling pointed to Harrison's finding of Ekers' "history of a psychotic disorder that has been characterized by hallucinations, delusions, impaired thought processes, and disorganized speech and behavior. [Harrison] also noted that defendant reported a history of increased caffeine use, which can exacerbate psychotic symptoms."

Evidence of the negative effect of energy drinks on Ekers' schizophrenia go back at least to 2017, according to the judge's ruling. During one hospitalization in 2018, Ekers' "psychotic symptoms appeared worsened with the ingestion of large amounts of energy drinks," the ruling read.

In July, Eker told a doctor at the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center that he sometimes hears voices "due to poor sleep and the ingestion of energy drinks," the ruling continued.

Ekers was voluntarily committed for mental psychiatric treatment in October 2018 for six months at North Memorial Health Hospital after he was found to be suffering from schizophrenia, creating "a substantial likelihood of causing physical harm," a court order read. "[His] expression of hallucinations and behaviors have caused fear in his family."

He was hospitalized a year earlier after insisting that "his parents were impostors and that he had a broadcasting device implanted in his tooth," the order continued.

On the day of the killings, according to the criminal complaint:

Police responded to a call from John Ekers, who told them his son had severely injured family members at the home in the 16500 block of N. 82nd Avenue. Police found the three women with serious head wounds.

His father told police that he and his son were downstairs working when David Ekers went upstairs. The father heard his wife scream, "David, no," ran upstairs and saw David Ekers holding a pipe wrench. The son dropped the wrench and curled up into a ball.

In an interview with police, David Ekers admitted to trying to kill his grandmother, mother and sister. David Ekers told police he believed the women wanted him to return to the hospital or start taking his medication again.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482