by: Mark Winne Updated:
NORTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - A judge is talking only to Channel 2 Action News about the high-profile murders of two high school students behind a Publix in Roswell.
"This was one of the handful of very, very, very difficult cases to deal with," Judge Shawn Ellen Lagrua said.
Jeffery Hazelwood pleaded guilty but mentally ill in the killings of Carter Davis and Natalie Henderson.
Court records reflect testimony suggesting Hazelwood may have been getting treatment since he was 3 years old for things like homicidal thoughts, suicidal thoughts and hearing voices.
"Are there other ticking time-bombs out there right now, because of this mental health things you're talking about, waiting to victimize people?" Channel Investigative Reporter Mark Winne asked.
"I'm sure there are. That's what we need to be addressing," Lagrua said.
Lagrua sentenced Hazelwood to life in prison without parole for the teens' killings.
"He will likely never get out," she said.
She said the guilty but mentally ill plea means that Hazelwood knew what he was doing when he shot the teenagers behind a grocery store last August.
"He took two young, innocent folks away from their families," she said.
Lagrua said we should not stigmatize the vast majority of the mentally ill who never commit a violence crime, but she wants to shine a light on the need for resources to prevent crimes against Georgians by too many others.
"We are not given the resources. We are not addressing the huge issue of mental health. There's no excuse for criminals, but if we don't address it, we have a perpetuation of crime by the same individuals over and over and over. They need help," she said. "The resources are starting to come."
The judge indicated that there was evidence Hazelwood committed murder after he went off his medications, and that's a factor in many crimes by the mentally ill, who often don't speak up about side effects and instead stop taking their medications when they could have simply changed them.
"Did Jeffery Hazelwood deserve to be in prison for the rest of his life? Yes. But, in this case, you have three families destroyed, not just two," Lagrua said.
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