JACKSON COUNTY -- Paul Kelley didn't like sleeping behind a locked bedroom door, but he did it because he was scared of his son, Dexter Mandoza Kelley, who is accused in the slaying of Cliff Allyn, 16.
"I was scared, and I admit that, but, you know, he was my son," Paul Kelley said in an exclusive interview with the Sun Herald. "I don't want everybody praying for my son to die. I can see where they are coming from but they don't know the whole story. My son is not an animal. He doesn't need to be put to death. He needs help."
His son, he said, has paranoid schizophrenia, and hears voices in his head.
"We've tried to get him help," the elder Kelley said. "We've sent him to hospitals. We've begged with judges to put him in jail for a few days for a mental evaluation. They won't keep him.
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"We've tried, we really have, but the system failed us."
Dexter Kelley, 19, is jailed in Jackson County on a first-degree murder charge. Police say Allyn was beaten to death and his body dumped in the woods behind his grandmother's house.
Allyn lived with his grandmother, Kitty Johnson, on Nanny Road in Vancleave. Dexter Kelley had been staying in a mobile home on the property with his brother for about three weeks before Allyn was killed. Johnson last saw the boys playing basketball outside her home about 2:30 p.m. March 30.
In the early evening of March 31, sheriff's K-9s discovered Allyn's body buried under some brush. As soon as the discovery was made, Allyn's mother, Jennifer "Jenny" Smith, said her nephew, Dexter Kelley, took off running. Deputies took him into custody a short time later.
Johnson no longer claims Dexter Kelley as a grandson. She says he has the "demon" in him and always has. She even said she'd "kill him myself" had he been released from jail on bond.
Paul Kelley said he knows all about what's being said about his son, and it hurts, but he'll continue to fight on his behalf.
'I loved Cliff'
Paul Kelley, like his sister and others in his family, has been grieving since the moment he learned of his nephew's death.
"I would much rather that had been me dead instead of Cliffy," he said. "I loved Cliffy. He would come over and spend the night with us in Gautier. I spent a lot of time with Cliffy."
Kelley said he started noticing changes in his son's behavior years ago.
One minute his son was fine, he said, and the next he might start arguing out loud with the voices he hears in his head.
"We hear him screaming like somebody is killing him," he said. "He keeps saying, 'Stop the noise, stop the noise,' but it doesn't stop for him."
At least twice, Gautier police arrested Dexter Kelley in domestic-related incidents.
Once he hit a curb as he drove. His dad asked him what he was doing, and his son exploded.
He threatened to kill his father, then pulled out a knife and cut him.
His dad said Dexter also went in a bedroom and started smashing things. Afterward, he said he didn't remember a thing. Police took him into custody later on misdemeanor charges.
There were many times Paul Kelley feared his son.
He awoke many nights to his son standing over him with objects in his hand.
Once, he said, his son was hovering over him with a large aluminum cross in his hand; another night it was a cane and once it was stick.
Paul Kelley eventually installed a lock on his bedroom door to keep his son out at night.
"I'm not going to lie, I was scared, but he is my son," he said.
And there have been other incidents.
One time, he said, his son started rummaging through a friend's bathroom, picking apart cabinets and looking behind curtains because he was convinced there was a camera in there watching him, but there wasn't.
Oftentimes, he said, Dexter came up with weird stories. He told police his family was force-feeding him cocaine "through the air."
The family could be watching TV or having a serious conversation and Dexter Kelley would burst out in laughter.
"It wasn't a normal laugh," his father said. "You know, like we'd all be sitting then all of a sudden this devil with an evil laugh would come out. He would look at you and it was like he was staring right through you."
When Dexter Kelley's family realized he had problems, they tried to get him help.
"We have been fighting this, probably like two or three years now," Paul Kelley said.
The family tried to have him committed to a mental hospital, he said, but "they would keep him three days and release him."
The doctors prescribed an anti-psychotic drug, his dad said, but it had a side effect that causes men to grow breasts and his son didn't like that.
The family tried unsuccessfully to get his medicine changed.
Over the years, the family also persuaded a judge to jail him for a few days following an incident to give the jail's medical staff time to do a mental-health evaluation.
"When we finally got the papers to have him committed, they had let him out," the father said. "When we found him, he was walking down a (highway) median with a turtle in his hand. He was saying, 'This is going to be my pet.'"
Before the killing
About a week before Allyn was killed, Paul Kelley said, his son called a relative to tell her he felt "something coming on."
He told her "I feel me getting mad and angry," the father said.
Kelley said his son knew he couldn't control his emotions and tried many times to get help for himself.
One time, his dad said, Dexter Kelley was having those strange thoughts, those voices in his head, and he walked to a convenience store in Gautier. At the store, he told a cashier to call police because he needed to go to the hospital.
He spent three days in a Pascagoula hospital.
He had been in mental hospitals in Meridian, his hometown, and elsewhere, but they didn't work out either.
During a stay at one long-term mental hospital, his dad said, "They put him out because he got violent."
"If you had a boy out there that needed help, what would you do?" Paul Kelley said. "Because everything that came to mind, we did.
"We tried to get him help. We never stopped trying. I went to bed some nights scared of him. I'm not going to lie about that, but I love him and I don't want him dead. Maybe if someone had gone and helped us when we were trying to get help, then this (with Cliffy) never would have happened. All I know is he is my baby boy, and he's just a kid himself. He is a human being with extreme problems that we have been trying for a long time to get him help for.
"We went to all the people we were told to go to -- the hospitals, the doctors, everybody," he said. "I've lost my nephew, and I've lost my son, but there is another side of it that I think people need to know.
"My son is sick. He needs help."