Crime

God told Macon man to kill ‘demon’ girlfriend, defense argues. Judge doesn’t buy it.

Telegraph recently talked to man wanted for killing girlfriend

Jessie Gray, who is wanted in the murder of his girlfriend, talked to a Telegraph reporter a couple months ago about a fire at the same home where he allegedly strangled and bludgeoned 58-year-old Brenda Gail Faulkner earlier this week. Gray was l
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Jessie Gray, who is wanted in the murder of his girlfriend, talked to a Telegraph reporter a couple months ago about a fire at the same home where he allegedly strangled and bludgeoned 58-year-old Brenda Gail Faulkner earlier this week. Gray was l

Within hours of one of the first Macon homicides of 2017, a man from Illinois living with his girlfriend at a boarding house in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood had become the prime suspect in her death.

Jessie “Chicago” Gray, a recovering drug addict who suffered from mental illness, would be in jail the next day.

But more than 18 months would pass before the most pressing legal issue surrounding his mental competence would surface, namely him telling a psychologist for his defense team that “demons” made him do it.

At Gray’s murder trial on Tuesday, testimony about such otherworldly entities took center stage as the death of Brenda Gail Faulkner was recounted by cops, prosecutors and people close to her.

Faulkner, Gray’s girlfriend of about two years, was found strangled and beaten to death the morning of Feb. 16, 2017. A young man who lived at the house at 1776 First Avenue had discovered her lifeless and lying by her blood-soaked bed.

When Gray was arrested for murder, he sat down in a police interrogation room and said he hadn’t meant to harm Faulkner, that “I just snapped.” He made no mention of “demons” at the time to the police.

‘I wanted to kill everybody in that house.’

This week, Gray, 52, waived his right to a jury trial in favor of a bench trial presided over by Judge Howard Z. Simms.

Authorities said that after killing Faulkner in the house where they lived together with other tenants, Gray, who had moved to Macon some years earlier to be closer to his family, took off in Faulkner’s Ford Mustang. The car turned up in a driveway on the city’s west side and Gray was arrested later in east Macon.

In a videotaped interview with Bibb sheriff’s investigators, Gray sobbed at times and said he was sorry. In a low, somber voice, he said he learned Faulkner may have been seeing another man.

People who lived with them testified that Faulkner had wanted Gray to move out and that the police had come to the house the night she was killed because the couple had been arguing.

Gray, who mentioned “voices” but never elaborated, told investigators he fussed with Faulkner daily and said he sensed his fellow boarders were conspiring to do him harm.

“I wanted to kill everybody in that house.” Gray told sheriff’s Sgt. David Patterson in the interview.

“I’m glad you didn’t,” the sergeant replied.

“I’m a human being,” Gray went on, at one point asking if he could talk to a mental health counselor.

Gray, later describing the night in question, said, “I tried to talk (to Faulkner). ... My mind just went. ... I loved her with all my heart and soul. ... I just snapped. ... I don’t remember nothing. ... I ain’t a cold-hearted killer. ... I didn’t mean to do this.”

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Brenda Gail Faulkner, 58, was found slain at a house on First Avenue in Macon’s Pleasant Hill neighborhood the morning of Feb. 16, 2017. Contributed photograph

When he was left alone in the room to speak by phone to his adult daughter, Gray could be heard on the videotape telling her, “I’m sorry, baby. ... I (messed) up.”

“I’ll pray for you every day,” the daughter said back.

“Just don’t leave me by myself,” Gray said.

“Oh, daddy,” his daughter said. “Just stay strong and stay in prayer.”

That exchange and other remarks to investigators — comments in which he admitted striking Faulkner with what turned out to be the pole-like handle of a car jack and others — hurt Gray’s claims of not knowing what he had done and that he seemed to know the legally-pertinent matter of right from wrong.

‘God had told him to kill demons’

In arguing that Gray was not guilty by reason of insanity, defense attorney Tamika Fluker called to the stand psychologist Christopher Tillitski who told of a meeting he had with Gray in March 2017, in the weeks after the slaying.

Tillitski testified that Gray was “crying, upset, emotionally desperate” and that Gray “was psychotic.” Then, in August of last year after Gray was treated at a state hospital and on medication, Tillitski again met Gray to evaluate Gray’s “criminal responsibility.”

It was in that meeting that Gray, who has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, symptoms of which include delusions and hallucinations, spoke of “demons.”

“He was very stressed and bereaved about Brenda’s death,” the psychologist testified, adding that Gray spoke of having “auditory hallucinations” and “delusional beliefs,” that “God had told him to kill demons” and that Faulkner “was a demon” intent on poisoning him.

Tillitski said he was of the opinion that Gray was not criminally responsible and that Gray “killed a demon in his mind,” that Gray had “acted on God’s demand.”

Fluker, Gray’s lawyer, later told the judge she felt Gray suffers from “a significant mental illness” and asked that her client be found not guilty.

Prosecutor Dorothy Hull, however, countered, saying, “I just don’t think there is any evidence that (Gray) wasn’t aware of what he was doing when he killed Brenda.”

In the end, the judge sided with the prosecution.

Said Simms: “The story about demons is a complete outlier. ... Nobody had ever heard this notion that he was told by God to kill demons” until some 18 months after the slaying.

Simms cited statements Gray made to investigators about not giving him money and about the possibility that she was seeing another man as more apparent triggers for the attack: “He got mad and beat this woman to death.”

The judge then ruled that Gray was guilty but mentally ill and sentenced him to life in prison — in Georgia, a mandatory 30 years behind bars before parole can be sought — for Faulkner’s murder.

Jessie Gray, charged in the bludgeoning and strangling his girlfriend Brenda Gail Faulkner to death made his first court appearance Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, in Bibb County Magistrate Court.

Joe Kovac Jr. covers crime and courts for The Telegraph with an eye for human-interest stories. A Warner Robins native, he joined the paper in 1991 after graduating from the University of Georgia.
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