Mother of mentally ill man accused of killing Oakland postal worker speaks out

The mother of a man with bipolarity and schizophrenia called for greater awareness of mental illness following the death of a U.S. Postal Service worker in Oakland last week.

Wilbert Winchester, 28, allegedly stabbed Dilma Franks-Spruill to death Jan. 11, in the 1500 block of Eighth Street as Franks-Spruill was walking home from work.

Winchester is scheduled to enter a plea in the case Feb. 3, at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in Oakland. He remains in Santa Rita Jail and is not allowed to post bail. 

Winchester was also arrested for allegedly trying to kill another person Jan. 9, along International Boulevard in Oakland, police said. 

Winchester was diagnosed with a mental illness when he was 17, his mother Felicia West said in an interview Thursday. Winchester has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. 

"A lot of people don't want to talk about mental illness," West said. 

Her son is not a bad person, she said. 

"He's just mentally challenged. He has a disease," West said. 

He was not taking his medication when he allegedly killed Franks-Spruill.

West has found it challenging to make her son see how important it is to take his medication since he has become an adult, she said. 

"How do I help him now?" West said, since she does not have parental control.

Winchester, though technically an adult, is still a child, West said. He still needs guidance. 

But because he is an adult, the hands of the family are tied, West said. 

She thinks her son and others with similar illnesses need to be monitored a little closer. He needs someone to tell him that he needs to take his medication.

In a prior interview with KTVU, Franks-Spruill's son, Miles, said his mother was his best friend. But he did not wish her killer any ill will.

"I wish you peace and I wish you farewell," he said at the time, his voice quavering. "You took the last living birth parent that I have."

Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia "are serious mental illnesses that can make a person totally out of touch with reality and unaware that they are sick," said Alison Monroe, co-founder of the Alameda County group Families Advocating for the Seriously Mentally Ill and a parent of a seriously mentally ill child. 

"Right now our county does not have enough beds to treat everyone who needs meds," Monroe added. "So they allow people to be homeless and go to jail, and hope they get treated in jail.

Winchester was homeless when Franks-Spruill was killed

West has been unable to get necessary resources for Winchester over the last few years such as housing where he can be monitored. 

She is getting the support of the Christopher LaVell Jones Foundation and Their Lives Matter, the advocacy arm of the foundation. Both honor the memory of Jones who was murdered in Oakland in 2010, when he was 17. 

The two groups are partnering with Oakland City Councilmember Carroll Fife and Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, which seeks to stop police from terrorizing minorities in the U.S. 

"There are so many things we can do to make sure this does not happen again," said Brenda Grisham, executive director of the Christopher LaVell Jones Foundation and Their Lives Matter. "We need to begin the work."

Mental health problems are higher than ever before and need attention, Grisham said. 

"I along with my organizations and team are hoping to be a part of the conversation and the solution," she said.