An ex-Marine who went AWOL and killed a Hollister man as well as his own grandmother in 2018 will spend 36 years to 45.25 years in prison after agreeing to a plea bargain to second-degree murder in both the cases.
Visiting Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons today stipulated that the sentences for Isaiah Evans Caesar, who was 18 at the time of the murders, will be served at the expiration of each other.
Sermons sentenced Caesar to 240 to 300 months in the fatal shooting of Roderick Bluesky Mills on April 11, 2018 and 192 months to 243 months in the shooting death of his grandmother, Sally Copeland Evans, who hadn’t been heard from by her family since April 24 of that year.
Caesar made no comment to the court upon his sentencing in both cases.
George Corvin, a Raleigh forensic psychiatrist, who has evaluated Caesar several times, including this morning before the proceedings, said while Caesar was fit to go through the proceedings he has been diagnosed as a schizophrenic.
“Mr. Evans Caesar was really on a normal psychoneurological developmental course in many respects,” Corvin told the court. “It’s not perfect. He finished high school, was a good student. He had always wanted to be a Marine.”
Delusions of Al Qaeda and Lucifer
He enlisted in the Marines and did well but in 2017 Corvin said he began displaying symptoms of a psychotic illness. “At Camp Pendleton around 2017 he began to develop concerns he was being pursued by Al Qaeda.”
At Fort Benning in Georgia he began to have more problems, Corvin said. “The delusional system expanded that not only is Al Qaeda pursuing him but there’s some interaction between Al Qaeda and Satan or Lucifer.”
He believed that Al Qaeda operatives had infiltrated the base. “He begins to acquire tools to make weapons, explosive devices while he’s still on active duty in Georgia. He even becomes convinced that Al Qaeda is tracking him by use of his financial transaction records.”
That’s when he acquired another person’s card to “facilitate what is essentially going AWOL.”
Corvin said Caesar, in his own mind, was preparing to do battle against Al Qaeda “and used other financial transactions and instruments in order to disrupt Al Qaeda’s ability to track him as he moved.”
When he came back to North Carolina his family realized he was AWOL, Corvin said. “They tried to send him back. They put him on an airplane and goes back. As soon as it lands he gets on another airplane and goes back here because he doesn’t want to go back because there were Saudi Arabian soldiers on the base.”
Corvin said Caesar believed that if he did what Satan wanted him to do, including hurting himself, that his mother would be saved from her difficulties. “He began practicing with weapons extensively. He was found with bomb-making materials because he was preparing to go to war with Al Qaeda. At one point he tried to kill himself because he believed the terrorist organization was about to capture him.”
Assistant District Attorney Keith Werner said in his interview with law enforcement following the Mills murder “he mentioned the reason he committed that crime was because of his mother and wanting to help her get off drugs.”
Corvin said that in his interviews with Caesar the man said Lucifer was using Al Qaeda and drug dealers to perform evil acts in the world. “He came to believe that Lucifer had told him and made a deal with him that if we would kill drug dealers and Al Qaeda that Lucifer would take the evil off of his mom.”
Werner said there was no real reason Caesar killed his grandmother other than he didn’t want to go back to the base.
Close to his grandmother
“He was exceptionally close to his grandmother,” Corvin said. “His explanation of that to me, including today, was that it was not his grandmother. Al Qaeda had killed his grandmother and replaced her with a clone.”
Werner said the murder of Mills occurred at a vacant house where Mills was in the passenger seat and another man was in the driver’s seat. “Mr. Caesar stated that he thought they were doing drugs or smoking marijuana at the time.”
But, Werner said, the toxicology report shows nothing of that nature. “Mr. Caesar walked up and shot Mr. Mills. Multiple shots were fired and he was hit in the head and body and died as a result of his wounds.”
The driver floored the Cherokee and ended up at a different location following the shooting. Werner said shell casings matching the Mills murder were found at the location of the second murder. That gun was found at a Rocky Mount hotel.
Prior to sentencing Caesar for the Mills murder, Latonya Carter, who is Mill’s first cousin, told the court that the victim was like her own son. “Roderick Bluesky Mills has a daughter, a daughter that loved him very much, a daughter that now cries continuously because she does not get to see her father anymore. She does not get to talk to her father anymore. He had a mother and a father and a step-father that loved him dearly. We miss him very much.”
Carter said of her cousin, “He mattered. There’s people that will put rumors out in the community and say that he was on drugs, that he had committed crimes.”
While Mills had a criminal record, Carter said, “He mattered. He had a good heart. He did a lot to help people in the community and this crime devastated our community. It devastated our tribal community.”
Carter said they live in a close knit community. “I just want this court to know he mattered and this person who’s on trial here today he self-proclaimed himself to take into his hands what law enforcement couldn’t do when he murdered Roderick Bluesky Mills, a person that mattered.”
She asked Sermons to give Caesar the maximum of life without parole. “Because in reality he should be on trial today for first-degree murder.”
Roanoke Rapids attorney Sammy Webb, who represented Caesar in the Mills murder, said there is a family history of depression and mental and emotional problems within Caesar’s family and those problems began manifesting in his client at 6-years-old. “He was obsessed with guns and grenades at age 8.”
Caesar, Webb said, first attempted suicide at age 10 and again at 12, when he first began hearing voices. “We contend that the military knew what was happening to him. He reached out for help but he couldn’t get it. We ask you to take those factors into consideration.”
Webb asked for a 144 to 185 month sentence, which Sermons denied.
Tonza Ruffin represented Caesar in the murder of his grandmother.
She asked the court to look at the fact Caesar has no prior criminal history. She also wanted the court “to look at all of the events that took place that led to him being charged with these offenses. I would submit to the court that the fact he had no criminal history is a strong indicator … that there were some mental issues taking place that led to these events.”
Ruffin said testimony showed Caesar’s mental state. “While he may not have wanted to return (to base), he didn’t want to return because he feared Al Qaeda.”
She said she wanted the court to consider that the crime was committed while her client was having auditory and visual hallucinations due to mental illness as well the testimony regarding his diagnosis of schizophrenia. She also asked the court to consider the his conduct was impaired by his mental illness
Ruffin said at the time of the crime Caesar was 18-years-old with no prior record. “He was different, something was off, something was wrong. Dr. Corvin said this is consistent with somebody that is beginning to show signs of schizophrenia. I’d ask the court to not ignore the fact that there are clearly some mental health issues that were taking place and those mental health issues were what led to these actions.”
Sermons said before the sentencing in the grandmother’s death, “It’s hard for me to believe that the killing of one’s grandma could ever be mitigated by anything. But as I do my job, which is to follow the law, I consider the arguments, the testimony … all of these aspects, it’s obvious to the court that had those influences not been present that in this young man’s life he would have had a successful military career and we would not be here.”
Afterward, Webb said, “I think this case clearly shows that there’s a mental health crisis not only in this county but in this country and that many individuals such as Mr. Isaiah Caesar, mental health issues go unaddressed.”
Werner said, “I think justice was served as best it could be for two grieving families like they are.”