A 31 year old woman, serving an eight year sentence for the aggravated robbery and burglary of an elderly Alexandria woman, may learn within days if she will be granted an early release.
A parole hearing was held last Monday, April 18th for Debralee Mai Hardcastle at the White County Jail in Sparta where she is currently incarcerated.
Hardcastle was charged on August 23rd, 2009 in an early Sunday morning assault on her 95 year old landlord, Lilae Belle Gilliam, at the residence they shared at 309 West Main Street in Alexandria.
Hardcastle pleaded guilty in DeKalb County Criminal Court on October 15th, 2010 to one count of aggravated robbery and one count of aggravated burglary. She received an eight year sentence to serve in the robbery case and three years to serve in the burglary. The two sentences are to run concurrently as one eight year term and concurrently with a Wilson County violation of probation against her.
She was given jail credit for time served from August 23rd, 2009 to October 15th, 2010.
Last Monday, Hardcastle appeared before parole hearing officer Don Fox asking that she be granted an early release. Hardcastle expressed remorse for her crimes adding that the actions were fueled by her past drug use. Two members of Hardcastle's family also spoke in her behalf along with her drug counselor.
Assistant District Attorney Greg Strong and Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins spoke in opposition to Hardcastle's release due to the seriousness of the crime, the victim's advanced age, and due to the close relationship Hardcastle once had with the victim as landlord and tenant.
At the conclusion of the hearing last Monday, Fox announced that he would recommend to members of the state parole board that Hardcastle not be granted parole. If at least a majority of the parole board members concur, then Hardcastle will have to wait two years before her next parole eligibility. A final decision is expected within a few days.
After her arrest on August 23rd, 2009, Chief Collins reported that Hardcastle had been charged with especially aggravated burglary, especially aggravated robbery, and especially aggravated assault in the attack on Mrs. Gilliam. Hardcastle was also charged at the time with theft under $500 in a separate case.
According to Chief Collins, Gilliam, who lived alone, rented a portion of her home to Hardcastle and another woman less than a month before this incident occurred. They apparently moved here from Wilson County. Both dwellings in the Gilliam home were under the same roof but had separate entrances.
Chief Collins said Hardcastle, in order to alter her appearance, dressed disguised as a man and then left her room around 3:15 a.m. He said she went outside, went around the house, and knocked on Mrs. Gilliam's side door. When Mrs. Gilliam answered the door, Hardcastle, holding a 14 inch knife, forced her way inside and demanded the elderly woman's medication. Mrs. Gilliam, who apparently did not recognize Hardcastle, resisted and tried to defend herself. Though she fought off the attack, Gilliam suffered lacerations and bruises from blows to her head and upper body.
After the assault, Hardcastle returned to her room, taking three bottles of medication from Gilliam's residence. Mrs. Gilliam, bleeding from the attack, dropped to her hands and knees, crawled to the foyer near the door and began screaming for help.
Apparently in an attempt to avoid arousing suspicion as to her involvement, Hardcastle removed her disguise, changed her clothes, cleaned up and went back to assist Mrs. Gilliam and called 911.
Gilliam was transported by DeKalb EMS to UMC Medical Center in Lebanon where she was treated and released.
Chief Collins said after interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence at the scene, Hardcastle was identified as a suspect.. She was picked up for questioning, but she refused to cooperate or give a statement. She was subsequently charged in the case.
The case was investigated by the Alexandria Police Department in cooperation with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.