Monday, April 6, 2009

Murder Suspect Attempted to Get Help a Few Days Prior to Killing Actor

Murder suspect had been out of prison three months before killing local actor, police say
Seth Tatum turned himself in to authorities a day later, police say
By Isadora Vail, Claire Osborn
Saturday, April 04, 2009

After beating his mother's roommate with a garden tool at their South Austin home Wednesday, Seth Tatum walked about three miles to the home of an Austin actor whom he had never met and killed him, according to an arrest affidavit.

Tatum, who has been out of prison for about three months, beat Carl Drake and killed 67-year-old Louis Byron Perryman, police said Friday.

On Thursday, Tatum, 26, drove Perryman's car to the Travis County Courthouse and surrendered to authorities, homicide Detective Joseph Chacon said.

"I just don't know what happened," said Tatum's mother, Joan. "He's sweet, and everybody loved him and supported him and thought he was going to be OK. At least he turned himself in."

Tatum has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic symptoms, his mother said. He tried to get treatment at a psychiatric hospital Tuesday night, she said.

Perryman was a character actor who enjoyed a run of bit parts, including in the films "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2," "Poltergeist" and "The Blues Brothers" and in television's "Walker, Texas Ranger."

During the South by Southwest Film Festival last month, Perryman joined longtime creative collaborator and friend Tobe Hooper at a special screening of their movie "Eggshells," which was made in Austin in 1969 and was recently restored.

"It's lovely that they were able to reunite for such a special event before this tragedy," said Rebecca Campbell, director of the Austin Film Society.

On Wednesday, police said, Tatum fractured Drake's skull and cut his hands and head with a pair of garden shears. Drake was taken to University Medical Center at Brackenridge, where he was treated and released, police said.

Police said Tatum ran from the house in the 6000 block of Glen Meadow Drive when his mother called 911.

Tatum ended up at Perryman's home in the 1100 block of Darvone Circle, Chacon said. Tatum and Perryman did not know each other, he said.

Chacon said Tatum beat Perryman with a sharp object.

Tatum told detectives at the courthouse that he had beaten Drake and killed Perryman, Chacon said.

Joan Tatum said her son grew up in Austin, attended Porter Middle School and then got his General Educational Development certificate at a Texas Youth Commission facility in Brownwood.

After he left the commission at about age 19, he held a variety of jobs, including construction, rockwork and at several moving companies, Joan Tatum said.

Seth Tatum spent three years in prison for aggravated robbery, according to police, and was released from a Huntsville prison this year.

Joan Tatum said her son had come home this week after spending a month in a small town in Oklahoma with relatives.

She said that he wanted to work as a tattoo artist but that there were no jobs in tattooing in the town.

He had stopped taking his medications about a month ago because he didn't think they were helping him, she said.

On Tuesday, Seth Tatum asked his mother to take him to Seton Shoal Creek Hospital to see if she could get him admitted, Joan Tatum said.

"They wanted $3,600 for the first three days, and I don't have that kind of money, so we left," she said. "He is 26 and doesn't have insurance anymore."

In a statement, the Seton Family of Hospitals said, "It is our policy to let all of our patients know the cost of daily charges and doctor fees.

"If they do not have insurance or the means to cover those costs, we ask if they can assist in the payment of those charges."

The statement said Seton has provided about a half-million dollars in charity and free care for patients in the past year.

Tatum remained in the Travis County Jail on Friday with bail set at $1 million.

He has been charged with capital murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

He could receive the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

Additional material from staff writer Chris Garcia.


Anonymous said...

Where is the indigent mental health care? A person shouldn't, and thanks to our publicly funded MHMR system, DOESN'T have to pay for mental health care that is needed for persistent and severe mental illness. Where was the indigent care-does anyone know???

editor said...

Unfortunately, taxpayers are not willing to pay for a great deal of indigent care which means that the definition of "imminent" risk to self or others becomes more and more narrow. Unfortunately, we readers only get a small picture of what all went on, but it would seem there were a lot of things that went wrong. By our voice (or lack of) we have chosen to allow these events to take place, and it is my belief that it will get worse. We value the right to be mentally ill over public safety. Truth be known, we probably value keeping our money in our pocket instead of paying for indigent healthcare. My 2 cents.

BJ said...

well said, both of you.