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A Hennepin County judge has decided that a man charged in the killings of his sister, mother and grandmother in a Maple Grove home is incompetent to stand trial and must remain in a state security hospital indefinitely, based in part on his "hyper-religious" belief that God is telling him to plead guilty.

David R. Ekers, 38, is charged with three counts of second-degree intentional murder in connection with the pipe wrench 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 Julia Dayton Klein's commitment order sided with a doctor whose examination of Ekers found that he "does not presently maintain sufficient ability to rationally consult with counsel and is mentally ill so as not to be able to understand the proceedings or to participate in his defense."

The doctor acknowledged that Ekers, who lived in Ply­mouth at the time of the killings and is housed in the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter, understands the charges against him and believes the prosecution's evidence is strong.

Ekers also told the doctor, according to the commitment order, that "I think I'm going to plead guilty because I think Matthew 5 says, 'you should settle with your accuser quickly.' … It's not that I want to go to prison or anything. It's that I'm trying to follow what God says."

Based on those comments, the doctor found that Ekers "was unable to consider what is in his best interest in light of his hyper-religious delusional rigidity, illogical and disorganized thought process and confusion, all of which are reflective of psychotic symptoms," the order read. "[He] stated in a fixed and rigid manner that it was most important for him to 'follow God,' which demonstrated rigid adherence to a single Bible verse."

Ekers' attorney declined on Wednesday to comment about her client's indefinite commitment.

A court's order in October 2021 that kept Ekers under commitment for six months found that he was schizophrenic due in part to years of consuming caffeine-laden energy drinks.

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. He told police he believed the women wanted him to return to the hospital or start taking his medication again.