Originally created 05/14/05

Man gets 25 years for assault



An Augusta man who held his ex-girlfriend at gunpoint while threatening to commit murder-suicide was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison.

A.B. Skipper, 57, pleaded guilty but mentally ill in Richmond County Superior Court to aggravated assault and a weapon violation. He admitted he used the gun to enter the home he once shared with Linda Courtney. The event left her unable to work for months as she sought help for post-traumatic stress disorder.

She hadn't known of Mr. Skipper's long history of mental illness, she told Judge Duncan D. Wheale. "I'm more scared of him now than before."

She asked only that she be informed when Mr. Skipper is released so she could take security precautions.

"This is a very sad case. We are all aware of what could have happened that day," defense attorney Jean Colohan said. But Mr. Skipper has struggled for years with mental illness, the post-traumatic stress that began after three tours of duty in the Vietnam War.

"The jail is not the place for him to be. A mental health facility is the place for him to be," Ms. Colohan said.

The Augusta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers could place him in a treatment program and get Mr. Skipper back on his medication, she said.

But that's part of the problem, Judge Wheale said. Once Mr. Skipper is stable, he will be released, and no one can ensure he won't stop taking his medication - as he did when he assaulted Ms. Courtney, he said.

"I promise I'll stay on my medicine. I promise," Mr. Skipper said.

The only way to ensure Ms. Courtney and her elderly mother can sleep at night is to know they are safe from him, the judge said.

Mr. Skipper should be transferred to a prison hospital facility, District Attorney Mike Carlson said. He has been held in jail since his Aug. 5 arrest.

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