Accused man hangs himself in jail

A Richmond County jail inmate charged with murder is believed to have hanged himself Monday, only hours after a 12-year-old charged as his accomplice appeared in Juvenile Court for a detention hearing.

 

Richmond County Sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry identified the dead inmate as Willie Herbert Casey, 21, suspected in the shooting death of Roosevelt Cowins, 65, in a home invasion on Wednesday night.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength said a jail inmate told a tower guard about 1:08 p.m. that Mr. Casey was hanging in his cell. Deputies and medical staff who were completing rounds on the sixth floor, where Mr. Casey was housed, rushed to the cell to find him hanging from a bed sheet tied to an air vent in the ceiling. He was taken to University Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 1:57 p.m., Sheriff Strength said.

Mr. Casey was alone in his cell and had been seen by a guard about eight minutes before he was found by the staff.

Sheriff Strength said the GBI has been called in to investigate, a standard procedure for such cases.

Mr. Casey was charged with murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Earlier Monday, his accused accomplice appeared in Juvenile Court, where a judge ordered 12-year-old Coreon A. Jackson to remain in custody pending further court hearings.

The slightly built adolescent, standing less than 5 feet tall, was shackled and dressed in a loose-fitting blue jumpsuit.

According to testimony, one of the investigators sent to Mr. Cowins' Fenwick Street home just before midnight that night testified that a witness identified Coreon as a possible suspect immediately. Coreon had been at the victim's home earlier, playing video games, Investigator James Kelly said.

After Coreon was taken into custody, he told investigators that he went with Mr. Casey to Mr. Cowins' home to collect a debt. Mr. Casey and Mr. Cowins argued, and Mr. Casey shot Mr. Cowins twice in the back, Investigator Kelly quoted Coreon as saying. Coreon shot him a third time in the chest, he said.

Juvenile Court Judge William Sams decided it was best for Coreon and the community for the youth to be detained at the Augusta Regional Youth Detention Center until his case is mediated in Juvenile Court.

Although accused of murder and a weapon violations, Coreon cannot stand trial as an adult. Georgia law sets 13 as the cutoff age for certain crimes to be sent to Superior Court.

Judge Sams opened the Monday juvenile court hearing over protests from Coreon's attorneys.

"The public has the right to know what's going on in the court, in this case and others," Judge Sams said. He agreed with Dave Dunaway, attorney for The Augusta Chronicle, that the public's right to know what happens to Coreon's case overrode the defendant's reasons for wanting a closed hearing.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Sams questioned Coreon's legal guardian, his grandmother, Joanne Bush. His mother is serving a prison sentence for theft, according to court and prison records. His father's whereabouts are unknown, according to court records.

Judge Sams wanted to know why a 12-year-old was out at midnight on a school night. When Ms. Bush told the judge Coreon wasn't attending school, Judge Sams wanted to know why.

Coreon was out of control, refusing to mind her, staying out late and skipping school, a tearful Ms. Bush said. Judge Sams said that because she had tried to control Coreon, he would not have her arrested, too.

In January, Sheriff's officers picked Coreon up on suspicion that he served as the lookout in the armed robbery of the Circle K store at 1739 Walton Way.

Maj. Ken Autry said Coreon was stopped not far from the store. When searched, officers found a BB-gun the size of a handgun.

Coreon was charged as an unruly juvenile and released to his grandmother.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.