Jackson County

Could a quadruple killer someday re-enter society? Experts weigh in

Murder scene was a 'bloodbath'

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT Former Jackson County Sheriff's investigator Jimmy McAnnally describes scene where Stephen McGilberry and Chris Johnson killed four family members in 1994 when McGilberry was 16.
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WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT Former Jackson County Sheriff's investigator Jimmy McAnnally describes scene where Stephen McGilberry and Chris Johnson killed four family members in 1994 when McGilberry was 16.

Three mental-health experts testified Tuesday they believe quadruple killer Stephen McGilberry could re-enter society one day as a parolee.

But a psychiatrist, Dr. Roy Deal, interviewed McGilberry in 1996 and said in a report: “As a final statement, it must be noted that this individual’s mental disturbance indicates that he is a significant risk for future violent behavior and he has expressed clearly his interest in committing future crimes of murder if the right situation presents itself.

“In my opinion, it is not likely that treatment will alter his dangerousness and risk of future offenses and this must be a consideration in his final disposition.”

Circuit Judge Robert Krebs is trying to determine what sentence McGilberry should receive.

In some of their meetings, Deal noted McGilberry admitted he had been playing games with officials during one session when he talked about having hallucinations.

Prosecutors Larry Baker and Jim Giddy asked other witnesses if they had considered McGilberry might be playing games with them now to manipulate the situation so they would recommend his eventual release and say he appears to be capable of rehabilitation.

In 1994 at age 16, McGilberry, with the aid of an accomplice, used baseball bats to beat to death his mother, Patricia Purifoy; his stepfather, Air Force TSgt. Kenneth Purifoy; his half-sister, Kimberly Self; and her son, Kristopher, 3. All four were killed at the family’s St. Martin home.

A jury initially convicted him of four counts of capital murder and sentenced him to death but that sentence was overturned by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. He was later resentenced to life without parole on each of the four charges.

Another high court ruling has brought the case to court a third time, this time because the high court said it was a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment to automatically sentence someone to life without parole if they were 18 or younger when the crime was committed.

The hearing this week is to present evidence to aid Krebs in his decision.

With certain restrictions, parole should be an option for McGilberry, three medical professionals said.

One suggested his release on parole directly to a halfway house with certain restrictions to ensure he is able to adjust in society well.

All said he suffered from a brain dysfunction, likely brought on by fetal-alcohol syndrome, and he suffered from attention-deficit order. His brain dysfunction, they said, affected the part of his brain that controls impulses.

At 16, he was already suffering from depression and ADHD that mostly went untreated, they said.

In addition, they said, he had been the victim of both physical, emotional and likely sexual abuse as a child. At the time of the killings, they said, McGilberry was experiencing several problems in his life, including the return home of his sister and nephew, the loss of his job at Shoney’s and his expulsion from school after ripping his shirt off and threatening to fight a vice principal.

They said McGilberry and his sister had been subject to domestic violence and substance abuse, and child-protective services responded to at least two reports involving them.

In one instance, a teacher called child services after Kimberly Self got to school and said her mother had come home drunk and punched her in the face. In another, a neighbor saw the siblings, who were young at the time, at home alone in a house without electricity.

McGilberry abused marijuana daily and abused alcohol before the killings, according to testimony. He also felt he was being physically abused.

Of the three medical professionals who met with him this year, all noted he had matured greatly over the years and seemed to understand and fully appreciate the consequences of his actions.

Dr. Julie Teter said McGilberry actually had been cited for “relatively few” violations for aggressive behavior toward guards or others since his imprisonment, though she did admit he’d been caught hiding handmade knives as well as drinking homemade alcohol.

Other infractions included disrespecting officers or disobeying orders, according to rule-violation reports the Sun Herald reviewed.

Earlier in the day, two relatives of the family member McGilberry killed spoke on their behalf.

Sherry Wright, Patricia Purifoy’s sister, looked at McGilberry when she talked about her great nephew Kristopher, saying “that baby, he had no chance.”

“He didn’t get to grow up. He didn’t get to have a birthday. You did that,” she said.

Murder victim's sister, Sherry Wright, speaks out about the resentencing of Stephen McGilberry on four counts of capital murder. McGilberry was 16 when he beat four people to death with a baseball bat. Now 37, he is eligible for resentencing after

Her sister, she said, and the rest of the victims had no opportunity to live out their lives.

“I pray that you are kept in jail for your own benefit because you need to be protected from yourself,” she said.

She said McGilberry as a youngster had poured hot glue from a glue gun on a boy’s hand and thought it was funny. She also remembered the time McGilberry set fire to his mother’s house, again laughing about what he had done. She said Patricia Purifoy and her husband were not alcoholics, contrary to what McGilberry and the professionals have suggested.

Krebs could make his ruling in the case before the end of the year.