Nov 2, 2015

Florida man in failed-exorcism slaying found guilty, gets life

Kristen Mitchell
Tampa Tribune (TNS)
November 2, 2015

Florida is known for its bizarre inhabitants. From the infamous "zombie" attack to the crack-smoking woman who burned down The Senator, here are some of the strangest stories.
Florida is known for its bizarre inhabitants. 

CLEARWATER — After 17 years and a two-week trial, Helene Ball's family is one step closer to closure.

Bobby McGee, 60, was found guilty of first-degree murder Friday afternoon in the 1998 stabbing death of his wife, Ball.

McGee stabbed Ball, 44, 19 times in what his defense called a failed exorcism to cast out demons inside her.

McGee's public defenders, Jane Matheny and John Swisher, maintained their client, who has received psychiatric treatment while in custody for much of the last two decades, was insane at the time of the slaying.

But Amy Stout just calls him a liar.

"I've waited 17 long years for them to say the word 'guilty,' " said Stout, Ball's daughter, outside the courtroom Friday.

Stout was a teenager when her mother was killed. After the verdict was announced, Stout and Ball's niece gave statements to Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley prior to McGee's sentencing.

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Stout said her mother, a nurse at the Pinellas County Jail, was kind and loving.

"You didn't know her at all," Stout said Friday in the courtroom. "She was full of life."

McGee in 1998 wrote in his diary about how he thought Ball, then his wife of three months, was possessed by the devil. He thought by doing an exorcism he could save the marriage, his defense team asserted. McGee never intended to kill his wife, they argued.

Ley sentenced McGee to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Anne Lardner, Ball's niece, said after hearing about McGee's mental state for two weeks, someone needed to speak up for her aunt.

To the court, Lardner said if McGee wants to see the devil, he should look at himself. Ball was a beautiful, fun-loving person who cared about everybody, she said.

"You were the cockroach she just couldn't get rid of," said Lardner, who was 10num>frac>numer>1/numer>denom>2/denom>/frac>/num>when Ball was killed. "I hope you hate yourself as much as the world hates you."

Since shortly after his arrest in 1998, McGee has undergone treatment to restore his competency to stand trail.

He has a history of mental illness and religious delusions, and considers himself a prophet of God.

Before he was sentenced, McGee stood before Ley and benches filled with Ball's loved ones, and read a poem about kindness.

Ball was McGee's sixth wife.

McGee was involuntarily committed under the state's Baker Act in 1994 and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. After he was discharged, he did not follow up and seek treatment.

"He did not believe that he was mentally ill," Matheny said during his closing argument Thursday. "He believes he's doing God's work."

Shortly after marrying Ball, the two split up and McGee left their house. His defense said McGee wanted to work things out, so he hid in her attic and waited for her to come home one day so he could perform an exorcism.

Assistant State Attorney Rene Bauer, who worked alongside Assistant State Attorney Richard Ripplinger, said McGee was "dressed to kill" when he confronted his wife the day she died. Waiting in the attic showed premeditation and planning leading up to the stabbing, Bauer said.

After his arrest, McGee expressed concern about how he would be treated at the jail because Helene Ball worked there, Bauer said, and what his parents would think about what he had done.

"He knew the consequence of his actions; he knew the difference between right and wrong," Bauer said. "There's nothing delusional about it."

From the defense table Bobby McGee interrupted Bauer during her closing arguments several times, saying he didn't mean to kill his wife and that it was not planned.

"Not true, not true," he said, a worn red Bible on the table in front of him.

But Friday, after about two hours of deliberation, the jury decided otherwise.

"He hid behind a Bible for 17 years," Ripplinger said outside the courtroom. "But not anymore."

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