[Hpn] Inmate who admits to slayings says jailhouse conversion is sincere, but some question motive for his revelations

William Charles Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Sun, 27 Aug 2006 05:52:11 -0400


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Inmate who admits to slayings says jailhouse conversion is sincere, but =
some question motive for his revelations=20

By: SARAH MOORE, The Enterprise

08/27/2006

BEAUMONT - April isn't a good month for Donald Dewayne Whatley.

Whatley's mother died in April 1997.

His father died in April 2002.

And this past April, Whatley, 34, killed 57-year-old Sheila Overstreet, =
a friend with whom he'd been staying.

In recent interviews at the Jefferson County Correctional Facility, =
Whatley told how remorse for Overstreet's death led to a spiritual =
awakening that brought him to confess another killing that has been on =
his conscience for the past three years.

In 2003, he robbed and killed a Mobile, Ala., motel owner for money to =
buy drugs.

On Aug. 14, he pleaded guilty in the 252nd District Court to =
Overstreet's murder, much to the relief of her family. Whatley, who =
faces a sentence of up to life in prison and a $10,000 fine, is to be =
sentenced Sept. 25.

Legal proceedings in the Alabama slaying are pending.

Whatley said he knows he faces the death penalty for that crime, and he =
accepts it and places his fate in God's hands.

"I've come to accept the fact that if it is God's will, I might possibly =
be able to walk free one day," he said. "If it's God's will I die in =
prison, then I die in prison. But I will live with Him eternally after =
that."

Overstreet's daughter, Candy Laird, 37, said she hopes he is sincere, =
but based on his demeanor during his court appearance, she is skeptical.

And although she forgives him as her Christian faith bids her, she hopes =
he spends the rest of his life in prison, where he can't hurt anyone =
else.

Laird said she forgives, but can't forget.

"I hope he has found the Lord," Laird said. "He needs the Lord.

"To turn that evil and do what he did ... he needs God. He definitely =
needs God."

Whatley killed Overstreet in a drunken rage April 1 and then drove off =
in her car.

He said he doesn't remember leaving her house. He said he was deep into =
Louisiana before he became aware of his surroundings again.

When he came to, he said, he was driving across the 17 Mile bridge at =
Lafayette. He exited and pulled under the bridge, where he gobbled a =
handful of Overstreet's prescription medicine and washed it down with =
what was left of a half gallon of whiskey in the car.

He awoke days later in a hospital room. He said being dragged back from =
the brink of death changed him.

"I picked up a Bible one day and I started reading, and it was like the =
Holy Ghost spoke to my heart and said that even though I'd been living a =
life of sin, I could come back to him," Whatley said. "I asked the Lord =
back into my life."

But as he sat in jail, reading his Bible, his conscience continued to =
bother him.

He said a verse - 1 Peter 2: 13-14 - persuaded him finally to confess to =
the brutal 2003 slaying of 43-year-old Pravenbhai "Pete" Patel.

He said he'd gone out that December night with the intention of getting =
money to buy crack cocaine.

He said he didn't mean to kill Patel, a Mobile motel owner. He just =
wanted to rob him.

Patel died of strangulation and head trauma, according to Mobile =
Detective Sgt. Mike Morgan.

After he robbed Patel, Whatley ran over the man's head with his own car.

"I've had a pretty bad life," he admitted.

Whatley was born in Mobile, Ala., the youngest of five children.

His father was an iron worker and welder, and his mother worked at =
Wal-Mart.

At age 8, his family moved near Hemphill, where his parents bought a =
fishing marina on Toledo Bend.

His parents divorced when he was 10.

At age 13, he became a Christian under the influence of a close friend, =
but he lost his faith when he fell in with the wrong crowd, drinking and =
taking drugs.

"I stayed in strong faith for about a year or so until I started running =
with the wrong crowd and I got away from it," Whatley said.

He was rebellious, he said.

As a child, Whatley had dreamed of playing pro football and becoming an =
Air Force pilot, but he dropped out of high school in his freshman year.

He was closest to his oldest brother, Ricky Whatley, who committed =
suicide in 1994.

The deaths of his family left him depressed and further eroded his faith =
in God.

"If there is a God, why is he letting all my family die?" Whatley said =
he thought.

He drowned his pain in alcohol and drugs, and racked up a criminal =
record in the process.

In 1994, Whatley was sentenced to seven years in prison for robbery, =
assault with a deadly weapon and "maiming of eye" in North Carolina, =
Morgan said.

He also has convictions for assault, reckless endangerment, marijuana =
possession and escape.

Whatley has a 4-year-old son living in Alabama. Whatley and the child's =
mother were only together for a few months and never married.

When their relationship fell apart, she accused him of choosing drugs =
and alcohol over her and their son.

Whatley was homeless and living under a bridge in 2003 when he met Patel =
in a bar.

He said that the night of Patel's death, he was seeking his own death - =
he hoped to buy enough crack to overdose.

He did not succeed, but two months later, he wound up in a halfway house =
after another suicide attempt.

When he met Overstreet through mutual friends, not two months before her =
death, Whatley had just lost a job and was on the verge of being =
homeless once again.

She asked him to fix her roof and invited him to stay with her.

She asked her son to help Whatley get hired at the refinery where he =
worked, and things were looking up for him.

"Everything was just falling into place," Whatley said.

He blames alcohol for what happened next.

Whatley and Overstreet's daughter give different accounts of that fatal =
night.

On March 31, Overstreet's fifth grandchild was born and she and other =
family members went to the hospital to welcome her newest grandchild.

It was a joyful occasion.

"I'd never seen her that happy before," Laird said.

Laird said Whatley was not with her, and indeed was not a part of any =
family gathering that night, but Whatley claims he went with Overstreet =
to one of her children's homes to celebrate the birth.

He said he became despondent amidst their joy, thinking of his own =
family, all either dead or estranged from him.

He began crying and left the house.

Laird said from what she heard, they had gone somewhere after her mother =
came back from the hospital.

Both agree he walked off after becoming upset, and Overstreet followed =
him and persuaded him to let her drive him home.

Whatley said Overstreet cursed him and said he embarrassed her by crying =
in front of her family.

Once at her house, he said she slapped him and told him to go.

When he turned to comply, he said, she hit him on the back of the head.

He said he remembers getting a knife and going after her, but he doesn't =
remember cutting her throat - the cause of death, according to an =
autopsy report.

Laird doesn't believe Whatley's account of the events of that night, =
because it is at odds with her mother's character.

"My mother has never raised a hand to anyone," Laird said. "She was just =
a precious, precious lady.

"She never had an ugly word for anyone. There's no justification for =
that kind of evil."

In addition, Laird said two people had spoken with her mother just =
before her death, and she was calm.

Those friends said Overstreet and Whatley had been out somewhere and =
he'd gotten upset and had taken off walking. Overstreet picked him up =
and brought him home.

She'd told her friends that Whatley had had too much to drink and he =
just needed to sleep it off, Laird said.

Whatley said Overstreet was high on pills when she lashed out at him.

Laird said her mother had been taking prescription medication for a =
shoulder injury.

The autopsy report showed opiates and hydrocodone in her blood, as well =
as a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05 percent - less than the legal =
limit to drive.

"You can't believe a whole lot of what he says," Laird said. "You don't =
brutally do what he did. ... Only him and her and the Lord know what =
happened that night."

Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Pat Knauth said although =
Whatley confessed his guilt in the two cases, his statements should be =
taken with a grain of salt.

A psychological evaluation by Dr. Edward Gripon called Whatley "highly =
manipulative."

Knauth said he hopes Whatley really is seeking redemption - but he =
cautioned that perhaps what he really is seeking is mitigating evidence.

"After the criminal history he has and the life he's conducted, he tends =
to minimize and manipulate the system as much as he can with the limited =
power he has at this time," Knauth said.

Knauth and other investigators admitted to being baffled about Whatley's =
motivations.

Whatley said he knows nothing he says can ease the pain for the victims' =
families, but he begs for their forgiveness.

"I'm extremely sorry for what I've done," he said. "I know no words can =
bring their loved ones back.

"If I could take it all back, I would."

Patel's wife did not respond to a request for an interview relayed =
through Detective Morgan.

Laird said it's been rough on her family since losing their mother to =
such a violent end.

Laird said her mother raised five children on her own, and her family =
was everything to her.

She had five grandchildren - and a sixth she didn't live to see.

"She was very funny and outgoing," Laird said. "She could make a whole =
room light up wherever she was."

Overstreet's greatest talent was for singing, Laird said.

"She just loved music; she loved Louisiana music."

She added that her mother was a deeply religious woman who belonged to =
the First United Pentecostal Church in Kountze.

"I want to call and talk to my mom every day," Laird said. "She was my =
best friend. She knew what I was thinking before I said it - and I was =
the same way with her."

"I pray that man changes his life. I just hope he's truly sorry - he's =
truly found the Lord and he keeps his faith in God."

She trusts God and the courts to get justice for her mother, but nothing =
will ever assuage her family's loss.

"(Whatley) took our hearts and ripped them out."

smoore@beaumontenterprise.com

(409) 880-0730 
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<DIV>
<DIV class=3Dheadline><FONT face=3D"Times, serif" color=3D#0a0a89 =
size=3D4>Inmate who=20
admits to slayings says jailhouse conversion is sincere, but some =
question=20
motive for his revelations</FONT> </DIV>
<DIV class=3Dheadline><FONT face=3DTimes color=3D#0a0a89 =
size=3D4></FONT>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV class=3Dbyline>
<DIV class=3Dbylinesource>By: <A =
href=3D"mailto:smoore@beaumontenterprise.com">SARAH=20
MOORE</A>, The Enterprise</DIV>
<DIV class=3Dbylinesource>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV class=3Ddateline>08/27/2006</DIV>
<DIV class=3Ddateline>&nbsp;</DIV></DIV>
<DIV class=3Dfslb1>
<DIV class=3Dfullstory_linkbar><SPAN class=3D"linkbaritem fslb_ef"><SPAN =

class=3Dicon></SPAN></SPAN></DIV></DIV>
<DIV class=3Dleadline></DIV>
<DIV class=3Dstory>BEAUMONT - April isn't a good month for Donald =
Dewayne=20
Whatley.<BR><BR>Whatley's mother died in April 1997.<BR><BR>His father =
died in=20
April 2002.<BR><BR>And this past April, Whatley, 34, killed 57-year-old =
Sheila=20
Overstreet, a friend with whom he'd been staying.<BR><BR>In recent =
interviews at=20
the Jefferson County Correctional Facility, Whatley told how remorse for =

Overstreet's death led to a spiritual awakening that brought him to =
confess=20
another killing that has been on his conscience for the past three=20
years.<BR><BR>In 2003, he robbed and killed a Mobile, Ala., motel owner =
for=20
money to buy drugs.<BR><BR>On Aug. 14, he pleaded guilty in the 252nd =
District=20
Court to Overstreet's murder, much to the relief of her family. Whatley, =
who=20
faces a sentence of up to life in prison and a $10,000 fine, is to be =
sentenced=20
Sept. 25.<BR><BR>Legal proceedings in the Alabama slaying are=20
pending.<BR><BR>Whatley said he knows he faces the death penalty for =
that crime,=20
and he accepts it and places his fate in God's hands.<BR><BR>"I've come =
to=20
accept the fact that if it is God's will, I might possibly be able to =
walk free=20
one day," he said. "If it's God's will I die in prison, then I die in =
prison.=20
But I will live with Him eternally after that."<BR><BR>Overstreet's =
daughter,=20
Candy Laird, 37, said she hopes he is sincere, but based on his demeanor =
during=20
his court appearance, she is skeptical.<BR><BR>And although she forgives =
him as=20
her Christian faith bids her, she hopes he spends the rest of his life =
in=20
prison, where he can't hurt anyone else.<BR><BR>Laird said she forgives, =
but=20
can't forget.<BR><BR>"I hope he has found the Lord," Laird said. "He =
needs the=20
Lord.<BR><BR>"To turn that evil and do what he did ... he needs God. He=20
definitely needs God."<BR><BR>Whatley killed Overstreet in a drunken =
rage April=20
1 and then drove off in her car.<BR><BR>He said he doesn't remember =
leaving her=20
house. He said he was deep into Louisiana before he became aware of his=20
surroundings again.<BR><BR>When he came to, he said, he was driving =
across the=20
17 Mile bridge at Lafayette. He exited and pulled under the bridge, =
where he=20
gobbled a handful of Overstreet's prescription medicine and washed it =
down with=20
what was left of a half gallon of whiskey in the car.<BR><BR>He awoke =
days later=20
in a hospital room. He said being dragged back from the brink of death =
changed=20
him.<BR><BR>"I picked up a Bible one day and I started reading, and it =
was like=20
the Holy Ghost spoke to my heart and said that even though I'd been =
living a=20
life of sin, I could come back to him," Whatley said. "I asked the Lord =
back=20
into my life."<BR><BR>But as he sat in jail, reading his Bible, his =
conscience=20
continued to bother him.<BR><BR>He said a verse - 1 Peter 2: 13-14 - =
persuaded=20
him finally to confess to the brutal 2003 slaying of 43-year-old =
Pravenbhai=20
"Pete" Patel.<BR><BR>He said he'd gone out that December night with the=20
intention of getting money to buy crack cocaine.<BR><BR>He said he =
didn't mean=20
to kill Patel, a Mobile motel owner. He just wanted to rob =
him.<BR><BR>Patel=20
died of strangulation and head trauma, according to Mobile Detective =
Sgt. Mike=20
Morgan.<BR><BR>After he robbed Patel, Whatley ran over the man's head =
with his=20
own car.<BR><BR>"I've had a pretty bad life," he =
admitted.<BR><BR>Whatley was=20
born in Mobile, Ala., the youngest of five children.<BR><BR>His father =
was an=20
iron worker and welder, and his mother worked at Wal-Mart.<BR><BR>At age =
8, his=20
family moved near Hemphill, where his parents bought a fishing marina on =
Toledo=20
Bend.<BR><BR>His parents divorced when he was 10.<BR><BR>At age 13, he =
became a=20
Christian under the influence of a close friend, but he lost his faith =
when he=20
fell in with the wrong crowd, drinking and taking drugs.<BR><BR>"I =
stayed in=20
strong faith for about a year or so until I started running with the =
wrong crowd=20
and I got away from it," Whatley said.<BR><BR>He was rebellious, he=20
said.<BR><BR>As a child, Whatley had dreamed of playing pro football and =

becoming an Air Force pilot, but he dropped out of high school in his =
freshman=20
year.<BR><BR>He was closest to his oldest brother, Ricky Whatley, who =
committed=20
suicide in 1994.<BR><BR>The deaths of his family left him depressed and =
further=20
eroded his faith in God.<BR><BR>"If there is a God, why is he letting =
all my=20
family die?" Whatley said he thought.<BR><BR>He drowned his pain in =
alcohol and=20
drugs, and racked up a criminal record in the process.<BR><BR>In 1994, =
Whatley=20
was sentenced to seven years in prison for robbery, assault with a =
deadly weapon=20
and "maiming of eye" in North Carolina, Morgan said.<BR><BR>He also has=20
convictions for assault, reckless endangerment, marijuana possession and =

escape.<BR><BR>Whatley has a 4-year-old son living in Alabama. Whatley =
and the=20
child's mother were only together for a few months and never=20
married.<BR><BR>When their relationship fell apart, she accused him of =
choosing=20
drugs and alcohol over her and their son.<BR><BR>Whatley was homeless =
and living=20
under a bridge in 2003 when he met Patel in a bar.<BR><BR>He said that =
the night=20
of Patel's death, he was seeking his own death - he hoped to buy enough =
crack to=20
overdose.<BR><BR>He did not succeed, but two months later, he wound up =
in a=20
halfway house after another suicide attempt.<BR><BR>When he met =
Overstreet=20
through mutual friends, not two months before her death, Whatley had =
just lost a=20
job and was on the verge of being homeless once again.<BR><BR>She asked =
him to=20
fix her roof and invited him to stay with her.<BR><BR>She asked her son =
to help=20
Whatley get hired at the refinery where he worked, and things were =
looking up=20
for him.<BR><BR>"Everything was just falling into place," Whatley=20
said.<BR><BR>He blames alcohol for what happened next.<BR><BR>Whatley =
and=20
Overstreet's daughter give different accounts of that fatal =
night.<BR><BR>On=20
March 31, Overstreet's fifth grandchild was born and she and other =
family=20
members went to the hospital to welcome her newest grandchild.<BR><BR>It =
was a=20
joyful occasion.<BR><BR>"I'd never seen her that happy before," Laird=20
said.<BR><BR>Laird said Whatley was not with her, and indeed was not a =
part of=20
any family gathering that night, but Whatley claims he went with =
Overstreet to=20
one of her children's homes to celebrate the birth.<BR><BR>He said he =
became=20
despondent amidst their joy, thinking of his own family, all either dead =
or=20
estranged from him.<BR><BR>He began crying and left the =
house.<BR><BR>Laird said=20
from what she heard, they had gone somewhere after her mother came back =
from the=20
hospital.<BR><BR>Both agree he walked off after becoming upset, and =
Overstreet=20
followed him and persuaded him to let her drive him home.<BR><BR>Whatley =
said=20
Overstreet cursed him and said he embarrassed her by crying in front of =
her=20
family.<BR><BR>Once at her house, he said she slapped him and told him =
to=20
go.<BR><BR>When he turned to comply, he said, she hit him on the back of =
the=20
head.<BR><BR>He said he remembers getting a knife and going after her, =
but he=20
doesn't remember cutting her throat - the cause of death, according to =
an=20
autopsy report.<BR><BR>Laird doesn't believe Whatley's account of the =
events of=20
that night, because it is at odds with her mother's =
character.<BR><BR>"My mother=20
has never raised a hand to anyone," Laird said. "She was just a =
precious,=20
precious lady.<BR><BR>"She never had an ugly word for anyone. There's no =

justification for that kind of evil."<BR><BR>In addition, Laird said two =
people=20
had spoken with her mother just before her death, and she was =
calm.<BR><BR>Those=20
friends said Overstreet and Whatley had been out somewhere and he'd =
gotten upset=20
and had taken off walking. Overstreet picked him up and brought him=20
home.<BR><BR>She'd told her friends that Whatley had had too much to =
drink and=20
he just needed to sleep it off, Laird said.<BR><BR>Whatley said =
Overstreet was=20
high on pills when she lashed out at him.<BR><BR>Laird said her mother =
had been=20
taking prescription medication for a shoulder injury.<BR><BR>The autopsy =
report=20
showed opiates and hydrocodone in her blood, as well as a blood alcohol=20
concentration of 0.05 percent - less than the legal limit to =
drive.<BR><BR>"You=20
can't believe a whole lot of what he says," Laird said. "You don't =
brutally do=20
what he did. ... Only him and her and the Lord know what happened that=20
night."<BR><BR>Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Pat Knauth =
said=20
although Whatley confessed his guilt in the two cases, his statements =
should be=20
taken with a grain of salt.<BR><BR>A psychological evaluation by Dr. =
Edward=20
Gripon called Whatley "highly manipulative."<BR><BR>Knauth said he hopes =
Whatley=20
really is seeking redemption - but he cautioned that perhaps what he =
really is=20
seeking is mitigating evidence.<BR><BR>"After the criminal history he =
has and=20
the life he's conducted, he tends to minimize and manipulate the system =
as much=20
as he can with the limited power he has at this time," Knauth=20
said.<BR><BR>Knauth and other investigators admitted to being baffled =
about=20
Whatley's motivations.<BR><BR>Whatley said he knows nothing he says can =
ease the=20
pain for the victims' families, but he begs for their =
forgiveness.<BR><BR>"I'm=20
extremely sorry for what I've done," he said. "I know no words can bring =
their=20
loved ones back.<BR><BR>"If I could take it all back, I =
would."<BR><BR>Patel's=20
wife did not respond to a request for an interview relayed through =
Detective=20
Morgan.<BR><BR>Laird said it's been rough on her family since losing =
their=20
mother to such a violent end.<BR><BR>Laird said her mother raised five =
children=20
on her own, and her family was everything to her.<BR><BR>She had five=20
grandchildren - and a sixth she didn't live to see.<BR><BR>"She was very =
funny=20
and outgoing," Laird said. "She could make a whole room light up =
wherever she=20
was."<BR><BR>Overstreet's greatest talent was for singing, Laird=20
said.<BR><BR>"She just loved music; she loved Louisiana =
music."<BR><BR>She added=20
that her mother was a deeply religious woman who belonged to the First =
United=20
Pentecostal Church in Kountze.<BR><BR>"I want to call and talk to my mom =
every=20
day," Laird said. "She was my best friend. She knew what I was thinking =
before I=20
said it - and I was the same way with her."<BR><BR>"I pray that man =
changes his=20
life. I just hope he's truly sorry - he's truly found the Lord and he =
keeps his=20
faith in God."<BR><BR>She trusts God and the courts to get justice for =
her=20
mother, but nothing will ever assuage her family's =
loss.<BR><BR>"(Whatley) took=20
our hearts and ripped them out."<BR><BR><A=20
href=3D"mailto:smoore@beaumontenterprise.com">smoore@beaumontenterprise.c=
om</A><BR><BR>(409)=20
880-0730 </DIV></DIV></BODY></HTML>

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