90-year-old murder suspect accused of killing stepdaughter dies in custody

An elderly and ailing Columbus man jailed on charges of killing his stepdaughter in 2018 has died while in custody, authorities said.

90-year-old James Lee Byrd was in such poor health that he had been transferred from the Muscogee County Jail to the Bostick Nursing Center in Milledgeville, Georgia, where he died May 8, according to Sheriff Donna Tompkins.

Byrd was 88 when police arrested him in the fatal Jan. 8, 2018, shooting of stepdaughter Nancy Long Green, 67. In jail, his health rapidly declined to the point that he was in diapers, unable to feed himself and unable to get out of bed on his own, Tompkins said.

“I didn’t want him to die in the county jail like that,” the sheriff said.

A judge eventually agreed to authorize transferring Byrd to the secure nursing center, which opened in 2016 to house elderly and ailing inmates and those with mental health issues. The transfer occurred on Feb. 21, the sheriff said.

Byrd was charged after Columbus police were called to a shooting in the 5100 block of Trussell Avenue around 4:30 p.m. They found Green, Byrd’s caregiver, lying on the kitchen floor with a gunshot wound. She was pronounced dead on the scene about 30 minutes later.

Investigators said Green had missed a phone call from Byrd before she went to his home to check on him.

“Once inside the residence, the defendant shoots and kills the victim,” Sgt. Michael Dahnke testified during Byrd’s preliminary hearing in Columbus Recorder’s Court. “The defendant then calls a family member from Montgomery, Alabama, and tells her he had just shot Nancy and told the family member, ‘Come get you some.’”

Dahnke said Byrd claimed to have almost $200,000 and believed that Green and the Montgomery relative were trying to steal his money.

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