Within eight months of his release from prison under a medical reprieve, Willie Herbert Casey Jr. attempted to commit the same crime that landed him a life sentence in the 1990s.
Casey was sentenced in the stabbing death of a man in downtown Augusta in 1991, and on Sept. 12 he showed up at a Hicks Street home and assaulted Michelle Hampton with a knife. He was killed by Hampton’s teenage son in what police ruled was self-defense.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said Casey was released from Augusta State Medical Prison in February under a medical reprieve. She could not discuss the nature or stage of his illness.
Like all reprieves, Casey’s came at the recommendation of his physician at the facility. The recommendation follows a series of steps until it’s passed along to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, which makes the final decision.
Weeks after his death, the Corrections Department still listed Casey as an “active” inmate on its Web site. Hogan said the department was in the process of correcting the information.
District Attorney Ashley Wright said close observation, such as parole, is the preferred method for an offender who re-enters the civilian world to gauge how closely they need to be supervised.
“But the reality is no one has a crystal ball,” she said. “The reality is that their decision to follow the law and not engage in further criminal history is their decision alone.”
According to a 2012 Associated Press report, Georgia corrections officials have doubled the number of medical reprieves since fiscal year 2008. Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens said in the article that the parole board was granting about 70 percent of medical reprieves, where five years earlier it was about 10 percent.
Officials said the additional reprieves shave millions of dollars off medical bills.
Eligible candidates are often incapacitated or have a life expectancy of less than a year, said state pardons Director Michael Nail.
He said the board considers the cost of keeping them behind bars, the response of the victims and prosecutors, the amount of time served and, most importantly, the likelihood a prisoner will commit another crime.
HOGAN WOULD NOT comment specifically on Casey’s case, citing health privacy laws.
Hampton said she didn’t know the man who banged on the door of her home around 3 a.m. Sept. 21 and hit her in the chest with what she described as a steak knife. She dodged the blow, which only grazed the skin, but the attack continued.
The next moments went by in a flash, she said, and ended with Casey dead from a gunshot wound.
Police said Hampton’s 17-year-old son, Anthony, shot Casey and saved her life.
“He said, ‘Mama, I just couldn’t let that man hurt you,’ ” Hampton said. “I told him that was fine. Nobody would blame him for that.”
Hampton was held at the sheriff’s office for two days while police searched for her son, who fled the area after the shooting.
After finding and interviewing the teenager, police deemed the shooting self-defense and released his mother.
“I sure hate that’s got to be on his conscience for the rest of his life, but he did the same thing anyone else would do for their parent,” Hampton said.
Police have not released details on the shooting and said the findings are being sent to the district attorney’s office.
Hampton still doesn’t know what brought Casey to her door, but she suspects it could have been retaliation for a confrontation she had several months ago with a man who might be Casey’s nephew. With so many unanswered questions and a new fear of being alone, Hampton has decided to leave the Harrisburg home she and her son have shared for seven years.
“I haven’t been able to sleep,” she said. “I’ve got to find a new comfort zone.”
CASEY WAS 25 when he was arrested for the slaying of 28-year-old Carl Reid on Nov. 29, 1991.
Witnesses told police they were driving along Ninth Street when they witnessed an argument between Casey, who was wearing a distinct pair of yellow pants, and Reid on the side of the road. One of the witnesses yelled for them to stop and warned that the police were coming, according to information obtained from the district attorney’s office. Casey then pushed Reid down and struck him in the head and chest with a sharp object before walking away.
When police arrived, witnesses pointed out Casey, who was standing in a crowd of onlookers in the same distinct clothing.
A court-ordered psychiatrist found Casey mentally competent to stand trial despite his lawyer’s claims that he was schizophrenic, mentally retarded and had been receiving Social Security disability since 1986.
During an interview with the psychiatrist, Casey said he had been using drugs since age 9, spent hundreds of dollars daily on cocaine and was once treated for drug-induced psychosis.
A 1986 MENTAL evaluation included in Casey’s file said he was “very irritable and the slightest irritation will make him angry and want to fight people.” It also said Casey heard voices that told him to fight, had near-constant head pain, hallucinations and uncontrollable behavior at times.
In 1993, Casey was found guilty of felony murder and malice murder and sentenced to life.
He made a motion to appeal years later, saying there was no forensic evidence linking him to the slaying, but the motion was denied.
Casey’s 21-year-old son, also named Willie Herbert Casey, was facing murder charges when he hanged himself in his jail cell in 2008.
A 12-year-old who was also facing charges told police he went with Casey to collect a debt from 65-year-old Roosevelt Cowins, but after an argument, Casey shot Cowins several times in the back and chest.