UTAH STATE PRISON — Ever since he shot and killed his brother 12 ½ years ago, Eryk S. Drej's mental competency has been questioned.
Drej, 44, of American Fork, shot his brother, Lukasz Drej, 25, point blank at least nine times, beat his head with a rifle and then dragged him down the stairs of his family's home in June of 2005. He killed his brother because he believed the man was going to kidnap a woman and sell her organs on the black market.
In another bizarre act, Drej told officials he had placed "smiley faces" around his mother's American Fork home to warn his brother of impending danger.
Drej was charged with murder, a first-degree felony. But the case was complicated by questions of competency and appeals to the Utah Supreme Court. Drej was twice found incompetent to stand trial and spent more than two years at the Utah State Hospital.
When the case was finally resolved, Drej pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of murder, a second-degree felony, in 2010 and sentenced to one to 15 years at the Utah State Prison. The judge also granted a request from attorneys on both sides of the case that Drej not be given credit for the time he had already served.
Drej's first parole hearing was held last week. During the nearly 40-minute session, Drej — who admitted he was not currently taking any anti-psychotic medication — gave rambling answers that were off topic and he often repeated himself.
At a typical parole hearing, an inmate talks about their crime and what they have learned in prison in hopes of swaying the parole board to grant an early release. Drej spent much of his time talking about how he believes the conditions of both the Utah County Jail and the state prison need improvement and gave suggestions about construction of the new prison, including giving every inmate their own rooms and their own private bathrooms — complete with bidets. He also asked if a meeting with the health department could be arranged.
"Adult men and adult women need personal space. They shouldn’t be sharing space," he said in a recording of the Jan. 9 hearing.
During another rambling moment when speaking about the Utah County Jail, Drej said, "Whoever designed it, I’m not sure they actually understood it, maybe their psychology was different. But I’m not sure it’s good to stick someone waiting for a trial with individuals who are arrested, brought to jail who have heroin addictions, who have all kinds of addictions, who have active infections and sometimes bring needles."
Parole board member Clark Harms, who conducted the hearing, asked Drej to recount what he remembered about the day he killed his brother. While Drej said he thought his brother was going to injure or kill someone, he said he mostly couldn't remember that day. His explanation for not remembering was, "I don’t know if I ate something or slipped and fell maybe a few days before."
Harms noted that according to his official file, Drej had "significant" mental health issues while at the Utah County Jail. Drej, however, blamed it on staffers and sleep deprivation.
"Put me in a dirty cell. It was loud. The staff would turn the TV on and run it constantly at full blast. And my cell was right there, and I couldn’t sleep. It was just constant sleep deprivation,” he said.
Drej also claimed jail employees also turned off the water to his cell.
Harms then noted that when Drej was at the state hospital and forced to take medication for schizophrenia, he made remarkable improvements. But Drej said the medication also caused him to gain 70 pounds and have high blood pressure.
Today, Drej said he refuses to take any anti-psychotic medication, choosing instead to take vitamin D and other multivitamins with minerals.2 comments on this story
"I believe many of the problems here in prison, really, are perhaps to the toxicity to some of the medicines, perhaps too high doses, perhaps active infections or parasites, or perhaps mineral depletion,” he said.
Harms also asked Drej about several of his write-ups and behavior issues he has had while in prison, including the time in August of 2016 that he believed for several days and nights that he heard a woman screaming, possibly from a tunnel under the prison.
The full five-member board will now decide whether to grant Drej parole or have him come back for another hearing at a later date. If he serves all of his time, he will be released in June of 2020.