He killed a house guest who was getting a drink of water. Now he’s off to prison

Man charged in fatal stabbing appears in court

Robert Anderson Jr. appears in court May 24, 2018 charged with killing 35-year-old Scheldon Cato in East Tacoma.
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Robert Anderson Jr. appears in court May 24, 2018 charged with killing 35-year-old Scheldon Cato in East Tacoma.

Johnny Mitchell said his brother had taken a liking to the man who ultimately killed him.

Scheldon Cato, 35, had taken Robert “Bobby” James Anderson Jr. under his wing.

“He was looking out for him,” Mitchell told a Pierce County court Friday at Anderson’s sentencing.

Anderson used a steak knife to fatally stab Cato in the neck May 23, 2018 in Tacoma. The 28-year-old suffers from schizophrenia and might have mistakenly believed he was protecting his mother.

He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, and Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend gave him a high-end sentence of 14 years, three months in prison — which is what both the defense and prosecution recommended.

Cato, who was a house guest at the apartment in the 1600 block of East 68th Street, wasn’t involved in any sort of dispute at the time of his death. He’d been working on his car and came inside for water. Anderson stabbed him as Cato was at the refrigerator.

Scheldon Cato Family courtesy photo

Anderson’s loved ones have said they think he heard his mother yelling at another house guest to leave and that he mistakenly believed she was upset with Cato.

Defense attorney David Katayama lamented how mental health services in the area have been decimated in recent years.

“I think Mr. Anderson is another person when he’s on his medication,” Katayama told the court.

Anderson declined the opportunity to address the court.

Cato’s mother, Cyliene Montgomery, told the judge she’s worked with people who suffer from schizophrenia. She’s the chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia’s Disability Caucus.

While Montgomery acknowledged there are different degrees of schizophrenia, she said the people she’s worked with “know right from wrong.” Anderson, she said, apparently chose not to take his medication.

She told the judge that sometimes she remembers Cato’s “infectious laugh,” and “it’s almost paralyzing.”

Cato’s death also has been difficult for his children, who are ages 19, 13, 9 and 4, Anderson said.

His daughter graduated high school weeks after he was killed and struggled with the loss as she started college.

“All we have left is memories,” Montgomery said. “Every day I miss my son.”

Mitchell said he believes the attack on his brother was premeditated.

Cato, he said, was his family’s support system.

“My brother was a pillar,” he told the judge.

Arend said she liked that analogy and that she hoped the family would find a way to stay strong in Cato’s absence.

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” she told them.

Outside court, Mitchell said that Cato had been working on the car that day so that he could make it to work.

Mitchell thinks he had a job buffing floors.

“He was very, very good with his hands,” Mitchell said. “He could fix anything.”

They’d hoped to build a deck together at Mitchell’s home.

Cato was generous, his brother said.

In the end, Mitchell said, he was killed “by the one he was trying to help.”

Alexis Krell covers local, state and federal court cases that affect Pierce County. She started covering courts in 2016. Before that she wrote about crime and breaking news for almost four years as The News Tribune’s night reporter.