TIFTON -- Linda Harrell has talked with authorities, watched the news and kept up with reports from state newspapers on the web. The grandmother of suspected killer Donnie Allen Hulett, Jr. does not know where he is and is horrified when she thinks about the crimes her grandson is accused of.
Like most everyone else, she hopes his manhunt ends soon and he is once again behind bars. In fact, she believes the state prison system should have never released him and blames the system for the deaths of retired Dalton teachers Arvine and Larry Phelps.
"D.J. should still be behind bars," his grandmother said Friday. "None of this should have ever happened."
According to an article in Friday's Macon Telegraph, Hulett had charges pending against him for escape when he was released from Calhoun State Prison after serving his full two-year sentence on auto theft charges. He escaped in May of 2001 in a stolen prison van and later stole a truck from a McRae car dealership before being captured a few days later.
Hulett was charged with escape, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence, and two new counts of auto theft. The charges were still pending when he was released.
Department of Corrections spokesman Scott Stallings told The Telegraph that the prison would have held Hulett only if a detainer had been placed on him by the district attorney handling the case. A retainer, however, was never placed.
Atlantic Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tom Durden said he would have placed a hold on Hulett, but he was never notified by the state that Hulett was about to be released.
It is believed that Hulett's most recent and most serious crime spree began sometime early Monday with the theft a 1990 Chevrolet Cavalier and two rifles from a Calhoun residence. The stolen Cavalier was found near the crime scene at the Mountain Top Boys Home in Villanow Monday, where the Phelps brothers were robbed and shot to death while doing volunteer work. Larry Phelps' 2000 dark red Ford F-150 was stolen from the scene and that vehicle has been spotted in Telfair County this week, where Hulett, Jr. grew up and where his father, Donnie Alan Hulett, Sr., still lives.
Hulett's mother, Jackie Lynn Harrell, is currently incarcerated in the Tift County jail. Linda Harrell said her daughter was shocked by the events of the past week.
"It's hard for her to believe," Linda Harrell said. "She's like us, just pinch me so I can wake up. She's flabbergasted."
The hunt for Hulett continued this weekend with most of the focus around Telfair County where Hulett was seen late Monday night and Tuesday. He was reportedly spotted in Tift County Monday, but those reports were not true according to the Tift County Sheriff's Department. Law enforcement officials in Tift County searched for him earlier this week, but found nothing.
There were also reports that a truck matching the red F-150's description was seen in a ditch off a dirt road near Enigma in Berrien County this week. But Berrien County sheriff Jerry Brogdon said Friday that no positive identification has been made.
"We're checking on some little things but we don't believe he was here," Brogdon said.
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