ROSWELL, Ga. — Jeffrey Hazelwood, the man accused of killing two teenagers in August 2016, has pleaded guilty but mentally ill. He was sentenced Wednesday, May 17 to life in jail without the possibility of parole.
He had been indicted on a total of 15 counts, including murder, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual battery, identity fraud, kidnapping, theft and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
The admission was made two weeks after clinical psychologist Dr. Christian Hildreth said Hazelwood was competent to stand trial.
Hazelwood, 20, shot and killed 17-year-olds Natalie Henderson and Carter Davis around 3 a.m. Aug. 1, 2016 behind a Roswell Publix, just days before they were to start their senior year of high school. The scene was discovered that morning by a delivery driver.
Hazelwood was arrested less than 48 hours later after surveillance footage caught him using Henderson’s credit card at a nearby gas station.
Fulton County Judge Shawn LaGrua said that it was apparent in Hazelwood’s previous court appearances that he was not being properly medicated.
Hildreth, who had been treating Hazelwood at Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, agreed. According to Hildreth, Hazelwood had been confused, unable to complete sentences and was hearing voices when he first entered the facility in February.
But after a new course of medications, Hildreth said Hazelwood now clearly understands the proceedings.
Both the Henderson and Davis families made an appearance at the trial to give their statements before the sentencing.
“Just three days earlier on Carter’s 17th birthday, July 29, we were celebrating his life,” said Carter’s mother Michele Davis. “How can I tell you the impact on our lives of not having this gift, this incredible energy, who was always all-in, gone and absent forever… There are no words.”
“Everything has changed,” said Natalie’s mother Suzanne Henderson. “A piece of our hearts will forever be gone without Natalie, and we will never get that piece back.
“One of the last things that Natalie wrote in her journal was this: ‘Love is our strongest weakness, yet it gives us our strength.’ We will do our best to remember her words as we continue to try to heal from this horrific tragedy.”
Hazelwood had no comment after the testimonies. His attorney said Hazelwood was remorseful for his actions and had drafted several apology letters to the families.
Before the sentencing, LaGrua said that Natalie and Carter will have a lasting impact on the courts and will remain an “inspiration” for her.
“I’ve been doing this a long time…most of my entire career,” LaGrua said. “And I can count on less than two or three fingers the number of cases that have impacted me as this one has.”