By Debbie Gregory
James David Rentfro was found not guilty of the 2015 murder of Mr. Sherman Brady at his New Harmony Road residence, by reason of insanity.
Mr. Rentfro, who was charged with criminal homicide in this case by the Macon County Sheriffs Department, had been held at the Lois DeBerry Special Needs Facility in Nashville since the spring of 2015. After a two day bench trial at the Macon County Justice Center, Judge Brody Kane handed down the verdict on Tuesday, July 25, 2017.
According to Macon County Sheriff Mark Gammons, on Sunday morning, May 17, 2015, they responded to a call at 273 Beech Hill Lane (off New Harmony Road), after a woman claimed her husband was acting strange. While investigating, they found that James David Rentfro, then 27, had been to the home of Mr. Sherman Brady where he allegedly shot and killed him.
“After Mr. Rentfro was arrested, the Macon County Jail, due to no fault of their own, wasn’t able to house him,” explained ADA Javin Cripps. “We entered into an agreement that DeBerry Special Needs Facility was better suited to house the suspect. While there Mr. Rentfro was taken to Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute for evaluation. They determined that he suffered from a mental illness but he was competent to stand trial, and he would have a defense of insanity.”
“The two day bench trial began on July 18th,” said ADA Javin Cripps. “We presented our evidence and witnesses began taking the stand.”
ADA Cripps said that by all indications, Mr. Rentfro knocked on the door at Mr. Brady’s home and when he opened it, the defendant shot several times killing the victim.
According to witnesses, Mr. Rentfro’s mother had passed away the first of May and in that two week period before the shooting, he lost a significant amount of weight, he wasn’t sleeping, he wasn’t eating and he was described as unkept, which was unusual for him.
“Those testifying for the state were Sgt. Kyle Petty, Detective Darrell Taylor, Detective Shane Gregory and the victim’s stepfather,” said ADA Cripps.
“The defense had three mental health experts that testified,” continued Cripps. “They looked at the video of the questioning and his confession, jail records, along with statements from everybody that had talked to him that day and prior. They determined at that time he suffered from a severe mental illness that kept him from appreciating the nature or wrongfulness of his actions.”
The closing arguments from both sides were on July 19, and Judge Brody Kane returned to Macon County on Tuesday, July 25 and rendered his verdict. “Judge Kane took about 30 minutes explaining his ruling and he said there was no doubt that Mr. Rentfro killed Mr. Brady,” said ADA Cripps. “But after reviewing all the evidence, Judge Kane took the law as it was and applied it, therefore returning the not guilty verdict by reason of insanity.”
“What happens now, is we have to have an out patient evaluation in the next 30 days to determine if Mr. Rentfro should be committed to in patient hospitalization,” said ADA Cripps. “Pending this evaluation, Mr. Rentfro is going to be held at DeBerry Special Needs Facility.”
“After the report is done, it will be sent to Judge Brody Kane and we have a hearing scheduled for September,” noted ADA Cripps.
In closing ADA Cripps said, “The Macon County Sheriffs Department did a great job on this case. Sheriff Mark Gammons, Sgt. Kyle Petty, Detective Darrell Taylor, Detective Shane Gregory and everyone at the Macon County Sheriffs Office conducted a great investigation and they did a good job putting all the pieces together. But in this case, we couldn’t overcome the hurdle of the defense experts.”