By Vince Gerasole

CHICAGO (CBS) – The man charged in the stabbing death of a man in a wheelchair appeared in court today.

In court family members of Darius Mayze, who is charged with first degree murder, said he suffered from severe mental illness and had been hearing voices for weeks.

Mayze can be seen pacing near the spot where 58-year-old Ronald Rocket was stabbed to death in the 1200 block of South Christiana Avenue on Nov. 20. And in recorded questioning, the 24-year-old accused killer made some chilling claims.

“Those statements include quote ‘Kill as many people as you want to,’” Cook County Assistant States Attorney Rachel Mabbott said. She also quotes Mayze saying “I told you I am tired. I just get up and go kill when I feel like it.”

Authorities say Darius, who lived just blocks away, is responsible for Rocket’s death. They continue to investigate two other fatal stabbings in the same neighborhood at roughly the same time.

Mayze’s aunt says her nephew was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has been in and out of institutions in Illinois and Mississippi, often refusing to take stabilizing medications.

“I don’t think there’s enough help – everyone looking at him like he’s a monster right now, and he needs help,” Lillie Mayze said. “We try to get him into six institutions already trying to get him help, and it’s not working.”

The correlation between crime and mental illness is well documented.

“Mental health is a lifetime illness,” said Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford).

A third of the inmates at the Cook County Jail suffer from mental illness, and Illinois is one of 44 states where prisons care for more individuals with mental illness than hospitals.

“Some studies suggest it takes up to seven episodes for people to realize they need their medications lifelong,” said Dr. John Zajecka, a psychiatrist with Rush Health Systems.

“These are individuals who get stabilized then go out on the streets and stop taking their meds, and it becomes a cycle,” said Syverson.

Mental health advocates say the state could do a better job of identifying and funding programs achieving more positive outcomes for patients.

Syverson has sponsored legislation allowing public safety funds to be diverted to mental health programs, but he also says more needs to be done.

Vince Gerasole