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Murder suspect awaiting mental evaluation

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Despite a detective's pleas to get a murder suspect into a mental health facility, the charges against Herbert Ledford, III, are proceeding as normal.

At a probable cause hearing in June, where Ledford was charged with murdering his grandfather, Clayton County Police Department Detective Steven Rotella described the 24-year-old as "disconnected," talking to himself, laughing at nothing and fearful of "someone in the basement."

The man has a history of bipolar disorder, "sever mental episodes" and violence, according to court records. Rotella is certified with the state's Peace Officer Standards and training Council to deal with mental health cases, and he said Ledford seems to suffer from delusions and paranoia.

"He needs immediate mental health care," Rotella told the court. "Attention. Medicine. He needs help."

Four months later, he didn't appear to have received any attention. Ledford is set to go to trial on Monday, on charges of impersonating a policy officer, a case which is expected to be postponed. He's still in the county jail, and is waiting to be indicted on the pending charges of murder, arson, and aggravated assault.

"He's still in county," said Dixie Duvall, executive assistant to Ledford's attorney, Leon Hicks. "We're trying to get him the help he needs. We are waiting on the medical records, then we will give those to the psychologist and go from there."

No formal requests for a psychologist have yet been made with the court.

The detective's statement about Ledford's illness and need for treatment seemed to divide the man's family at the hearing in June. Two relatives began screaming at each other in the women's bathroom, and were separated by sheriff's deputies. One man started arguing with an attorney, outside the courtroom, saying Ledford's violence and destructiveness had been overlooked for too long.

Ledford was reportedly going through an "episode" when his grandfather, Jack Uselton, went to sit with him on May 23. Ledford was "talking to himself and acting depressed," according to witnesses' statements to police.

The elder man reportedly brought food for his grandson, and was trying to talk to him. When a neighbor checked in, Uselton was sitting on the couch next to Ledford, trying to talk to him about the Braves, and getting no response.

The next morning, Uselton was dead in a shower, shot once in the shoulder and once in the head. There was a small fire burning in the master bedroom, and the 24-year-old was gone.

When Ledford was arrested, and interviewed at police department headquarters, he seemed "flat," "zoned out," and "disconnected." He told the detectives he thought the man in the basement might have killed his grandfather.