By Karen Hall
A Lewisburg man must serve prison time for his crimes, in spite of his age, health problems, and previously spotless record.
Roy Overcast, 71, of Old Belfast Road, was found guilty by a jury of two counts of reckless endangerment, attempted voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and resisting arrest after a trial last month. All charges arose from an incident on July 29, when Overcast fired a rifle at a shop on his property where his son was working, and then fired at Marshall County Sheriff's deputies who responded to the shooting.
At Overcast's sentencing hearing last week, a pre-sentence report by Crystal Gray of the Board of Probation and Parole was admitted into evidence.
It contains an impact statement from Sheriff Norman Dalton, who was notified his officers were in a standoff with an armed man.
"I had a sick feeling in my stomach," Dalton wrote. "I was scared one of the deputies could be seriously injured or possibly killed. This has reminded me of how dangerous each and every call could be to law enforcement agents."
Gray's report said Overcast's physical condition was "poor." He's had quadruple bypass surgery and wears a pacemaker. Overcast also broke 24 bones in a four-wheeler accident, and a fan blade partly severed his arm.
Overcast told Gray he started working at 14 and is a self-taught mechanic. He owned Overcast Body Shop for 38 years.
Two witnesses spoke to Overcast's good character. Silvia Griffin said she had known Overcast for 30 years and he was a great supporter of the Belfast community.
"When he knows you are having a hard time, he will step up," Griffin said, stating that people needed to know other facets of Overcast's character.
Clifton Thomas Warren said he'd known Overcast his whole life, and called him a "straight up honest man and a hard worker; a fine man."
"You do understand there was shooting involved?" asked Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard.
"Yes, sir," answered Warren. "It was a lapse of judgment in an otherwise good life."
Summing up, and asking for the maximum sentence, Barnard said, "The state does not take this case lightly. We don't want officers shot at when they answer a call. A message needs to be sent."
"I'm not trying to belittle what happened that night. It was definitely a lapse in judgment," said Overcast's attorney Michael Collins of the Public Defender's Office. "Mr. Overcast has had a very respectable life and done a lot of hard work. He's never received a conviction before. He's the exact opposite of most of the defendants we see."
Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler was left with a difficult decision.
"There's a lot of things for a judge to cover," he said. "I can't think of anything law enforcement could have done differently. Bart Fagan and Tony Nichols (the officers who used a Taser to subdue Overcast) were truly heroes.
"He had no hesitation," the judge continued. "The entire episode involved risk to human life. To think it's his property and he can shoot at people on it - that's ludicrous." Crigler concluded prison time was needed "to avoid depreciating the seriousness of the offence" and needed for deterrence.
The judge gave Overcast a sentence of four and a half years, of which he must serve at least 30 percent, or just over 16 months, before being eligible for a parole hearing. He has 319 days of jail credit.
Also due for a sentencing hearing last week was Kimberly Wentzel, 50, who was convicted on multiple counts of prescription fraud and identity theft after a jury trial in April.
The hearing could not be held because Wentzel's attorney was allowed to withdraw from the case. Crigler appointed Pulaski-based lawyer Hershel Koger to represent her at the sentencing hearing now scheduled for June 27.
In his motion to withdraw, Wentzel's attorney Rob Dalton called the attorney-client relationship "fatally damaged," and stated Wentzel repeatedly refused to follow his professional advice.