By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
IUKA – The man who killed the father of two Tishomingo County officials was legally insane when he shot Hezzie Whitlock in 2008, a circuit court agreed Tuesday and ordered him to a lifetime of supervised mental health treatment.
Joshua Dale “Josh” Vandiver, 32, apologized for shooting Whitlock, the father of Sheriff Glenn Whitlock and Tax Collector Paul Whitlock.
“I’m sorry for what happened – if it were today, it would not have happened,” said a medicated Vandiver to the courtroom audience. “I ask forgiveness from the people it’s affected.”
In addition to at least weekly outpatient evaluation, Vandiver was ordered not to enter Tishomingo County for three years.
Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner, in finding him not guilty of murder by reason of insanity, said he remains concerned about Vandiver’s future.
“Because of that,” he said, “the court is ordering a continuation of the court’s jurisdiction while you participate in a very controlled and detailed treatment program I find appropriate for the safety of the public and the defendant himself.”
He noted that the treatment plan was undertaken “to fashion some safe, reasonable, certain circumstances so that you can return to society and live a fruitful life.”
Vandiver has been in custody since soon after the murder. He will reside in Alcorn County, the judge noted.
In June 2008, Vandiver reportedly walked into the home of his grandmother, Jean, the wife of Hezzie Whitlock, and put a gun to the elderly man’s chest. When the first shot failed to fire, he cocked the handgun and fired again, killing Whitlock as he sat beside his wife on the couch.
Sheriff Whitlock said he realizes that with Vandiver’s insanity diagnosis, there’s not much more the legal system can do than what all sides agreed to with the court’s blessing.
“It’s not going to bother me,” he said after the hour-long hearing, “but there’s some women in the family who won’t sleep so well from now on.”
Vandiver’s trial was delayed at least eight times while authorities sought mental evaluations and then solutions to their concerns about public safety, if Vandiver were released.
Assistant District Attorney Richard Bowen represented the state. Vandiver’s attorney was Ronald Michael of Booneville.