Crime

Ex-cop accused of killing Columbus EMT is ‘suffering’ in isolation, attorney says

Accused of killing paramedic Kelly Levinsohn during a May 11 dispute, former Columbus Police Sgt. William Talley III remains in isolation on suicide watch in the Muscogee County Jail.

He has limited contact with the staff, who check on him every 15 minutes, and a psychologist who briefly sees him once a day.

He otherwise has little personal interaction, and spends no time outside the cell, defense attorney Jennifer Curry said Tuesday as she asked a judge to have Talley transferred to a “secure mental health facility” as he awaits trial on charges of murder, using a gun to commit a crime and violating his oath as a law enforcement officer.

“Being in solitary confinement is taking a psychological toll on him,” said Curry, who added Talley, 51, is having hallucinations and hearing voices.

“You cannot keep someone in isolation without their going crazy,” Curry said. “He’s already been in four months. He’s already suffering the effects of it.”

Talley’s mental health reportedly was deteriorating before his arrest. He was suspended and ordered to get counseling after an incident March 11, 2018, at Levinsohn’s Pratt Avenue home, where he was suicidal and apparently drunk while having a “personal crisis.” Other officers used three sets of handcuffs to secure Talley’s arms and took his weapons away.

After Levinsohn was found shot to death May 11, Talley took her truck to Harris County, where he wrecked off Interstate 185. He threatened to kill himself there, holding a gun to his head and causing a standoff that required a SWAT team to respond, said Senior District Attorney Don Kelly.

Talley himself is trained to serve on a SWAT, or Special Weapons And Tactics, team. He also served in the military, and his training and experience can make him particularly dangerous, a challenge to any facility holding him in custody, authorities said.

On Tuesday, Kelly told Judge Gil McBride that no private, mental health facility is equipped to hold a person who is “SWAT-trained,” and to think one exists is “fanciful.”

The district attorney’s office opposes granting Talley a bond or otherwise moving him from the jail, Kelly said.

Curry said Sheriff Donna Tompkins supported her proposal. Tompkins, who was not at the hearing, said later that she agreed with moving Talley to a “secure” mental health facility, if that’s possible.

Kelly said prosecutors still are waiting on ballistics tests from Levinsohn’s homicide, and expect to indict him when those are available. The crime lab is backlogged, he said.

McBride said he did not have enough information Tuesday to decide on Curry’s motion.

He suggested West Central Georgia Regional Hospital in Columbus might be able to hold and treat Talley, but someone from the hospital would have to assure him of that, and he would want to hear what the sheriff thinks, he said.

Curry said she would renew her motion when she could provide those witnesses.

The family

Also opposing Curry’s proposal Tuesday were Levinsohn’s mother and brother, who spoke of the shock of losing her at age 44.

“Kelly’s short life ended in a senseless, vicious act,” said Levinsohn’s mother, Wylma. “She was taken away from us in the prime of her life.”

Everyone still feels the loss, she said.

“Kelly was my only daughter, my confidant, my best friend, my travel buddy, my rock. She was my everything. I feel her loss every day, every minute, and every second of my life. The void will never be replaced.”

Of Talley, she said: “Someone who committed such an act of violence should never be able to experience freedom again.”

Levinsohn’s older brother Gary described seeing the bloody crime scene in his sister’s home, after having tried to protect her all her life. “You think emotional things are tough,” he told McBride. “They’re tough when they come with no explanation and for no reason.”

He read from a card his sister sent him, in which she wrote of their growing closer together as they aged. “This is how I always wanted it to be,” she wrote, later adding, “I don’t know what I would do if anything happened to you.”

Said the brother: “I’m not a big brother anymore because someone took her life.”

Curry remained adamant that Talley’s health further would erode were he to remain jailed under the current conditions.

“You cannot keep someone in isolation without their going crazy,” she said.

Kelly maintained the jail still was the best place for Talley, in light of the danger he could present to himself or others.

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