Suspect arrested 3 times since parole

Despite charges, the man accused of kidnapping a Gastonia family was set free each time.

THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVERJuly 22, 2009 

The former death row inmate accused of kidnapping a Gastonia family last week was arrested three times since he was paroled in late 2007 from a life sentence for murder.

With each new charge, probation officials failed to permanently revoke Case's parole. In one case they jailed him for a month, but set him free when the charge was dropped.

The N.C. Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission, responsible for parole decisions, didn't return a call from the Observer on Tuesday.

Jerry Douglas Case, 52, is now accused of kidnapping a 71-year-old, his daughter, an infant boy and 7-year-old girl Friday from the Hot Hole fishing access on the South Fork River in Belmont.

William Earley Payne was with his 7-year-old granddaughter at their favorite fishing spot when Case surprised him from behind and put a gun to his head, Payne told the Gaston Gazette.

"He stuck the gun in my neck and said, 'Don't move, dude, or I'll kill you.'"

Case took money and a credit card and forced Payne and his granddaughter into some nearby woods, police said. Payne said that Case told him to call his daughter and ask her to come pick them up early, the Gazette reported. He then kidnapped all of them at gunpoint, Payne said.

Payne described the next 12 hours as a hellish experience of constant fear and intimidation. Case, increasingly drunk from the beer he was drinking and suffering heroin withdrawal, pointed the cocked gun at Payne, his daughter Natasha and two grandchildren, including the infant, the grandfather told the Gazette.

"He threatened to kill us all," he said.

In and out of prison

Case was paroled Dec. 15, 2007, from a life sentence for kidnapping and killing a taxi driver.

He was originally sentenced to death in 1986 but an N.C. appeals court threw out the conviction over an improper plea bargain. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life.

The first new charge since being paroled came in April 2008 when his sister accused him of threatening to kill her, said Keith Acree, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Correction.

The three-member parole commission revoked his parole, and Case went back to prison May 2. The charge was dropped, and the commission decided to reverse itself. He was released again on June 5, 2008, Acree said.

Several months later, Case was charged with DWI on Oct. 25, 2008. The commission decided to wait until the outcome of that case before deciding whether to revoke his parole, Acree said. After one postponement, the trial was scheduled for July 20, nine months after the original charge.

But Case wouldn't make the court date last Monday. Three days earlier, police say, he kidnapped the family and was hospitalized after a shootout with sheriff's deputies.

A week ago, on July 12, Belmont police say Case was in Gaston County jail accused of fleeing from a traffic accident and driving without a license. A probation officer didn't file a warrant with the commission to have his parole revoked because DWI is a more serious charge and Case was already set to come to trial, Acree said.

Case was released under a $2,000 secured bond. As of this week, his car was still impounded, said Belmont police Chief David James.

Terrifying 12-hour ride

Details of the kidnapping emerged from interviews Payne gave the Gaston Gazette and WSOC-TV. Payne wouldn't talk in detail with the Observer, saying investigators told him not to speak anymore about the case.

On the 12-hour ride, Case was in the back seat beside the 7-year-old girl and infant boy, according to the Gazette. Payne's daughter Natasha drove, and Payne sat in the passenger seat turned around facing Case to make sure he didn't touch his grandchildren.

"I was watching him like a hawk. I told him, 'You don't want to do this,'" Payne said. "I was scared for (my family). I had to stay calm because I didn't want them to get hurt."

Case gave no explanations, Payne said, only directions down different roads as they crisscrossed the N.C.-S.C. line. He would say: "'If you don't do it, I'll kill you,'" Payne told the Gazette.

At one point, he said he was a heroin addict and was having withdrawal symptoms, Payne said.

"He was really sick," Payne said. "He was really messed up ... stuttering, coughing."

Chance to escape

Night fell, but Case ordered the family to keep driving into the next morning. Natasha had given her son a bottle before coming to pick her father and daughter up, but none of them were allowed food during the drive, Payne told the Gazette.

At about 5 a.m., Case forced the family to pull off I-85 at Exit 96 near Gaffney, S.C., and into a Kangaroo gas station, Payne said. The kidnapper ordered Natasha Payne to fill the tank, then realized the pump wasn't on. Case started walking toward the gas station and yelling for an employee to turn on the pump.

Payne said he saw that Case had left the keys in the ignition and called to his daughter to start the car. As they sped away, Payne told the Gazette, Case realized what was happening and began running after them.

The Paynes got on I-85 and called 911. They were met by police 10 miles down the road in Blacksburg, S.C.

By then Case had fled into some woods near the convenience store, police said. Cherokee County sheriff's deputies reported chasing him and exchanging gunfire. Case was shot several times and airlifted to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center. A deputy suffered a minor injury in the shootout.

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