published Friday, March 7th, 2014

Woman doubted man was threat before Georgia shooting

  • photo
    Deanne Westbrook poses with a photo of her husband in her home. Westbrook's husband, Ronald, was shot by Joe Hendrix. District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin announced last week that he would not to bring charges on Hendrix.
    Photo by C. B. Schmelter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ATLANTA — The girlfriend of the man who mistakenly shot and killed a disoriented Alzheimer's patient in North Georgia warned her boyfriend that the stranger appeared to be an old man and did not perceive him as a threat, the woman told investigators.

A local prosecutor decided last week not to press criminal charges against Joe Hendrix for fatally shooting 72-year-old Ronald Westbrook in the early morning of Nov. 27.

Westbrook slipped unnoticed from the home he shared with his wife as early as 1 a.m., taking his dogs with him. He was spotted wandering in the cold, apparently confused, before reaching the woman's rented home on a rural cul-de-sac, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press using Georgia's open records law.

The then-girlfriend, whose name was redacted in police reports, told investigators that she heard a dog in her home pacing on the hardwood floors. District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin identified the woman as Terri Huskey. She and Hendrix are no longer in a relationship.

When the girlfriend looked outside, she saw a man — later identified as Westbrook — with several dogs, according to a transcript of her interview with police the day of the shooting. She assumed the stranger was just walking his dogs and checked that her door was locked. Westbrook eventually started ringing the doorbell and attempted to open the door, both witnesses said.

The girlfriend gave mixed signals about whether she felt threatened by the man. During an interview just hours after the shooting, she acknowledged that she was scared by the unknown intruder. However, the woman also considered other possibilities.

"I thought he was just confused where he was," she said.

See more in the Saturday's Times Free Press.

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