DA vows to fight 'tooth and nail' to keep man who shot Johnson City attorney, judge behind barsBy BECKY CAMPBELL
Published March 6th, 2009
Attorney General Tony Clark said he will fight “tooth and nail” to keep Walter Shell — charged in the 1999 point-blank shooting deaths of a well-known attorney and former city judge and an insurance agent in the attorney’s office — behind bars.
Shell, now 81, formerly of Berry Ridge Road, will appear in Washington County Criminal Court in Jonesborough for the first time in nearly a decade. He’s charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the March 18, 1999, deaths of John Goodin, 81, and Trey Keyser, 35.
Today’s hearing is a status update during which Judge Jerry Beck, a Sullivan County judge sitting by interchange, will set a competency hearing.
“This is a status haring to set a hearing to determine competency,” said District Attorney General Tony Clark. “(Shell’s) been brought back from Lakeshore and he’s in custody here.”
Mental health experts at Lakeshore Mental Health Institute informed Beck last month that they intended to release Shell because he was no longer a danger to himself or others and he does not meet the criteria for commitment to a mental facility.
However, Shell’s doctors also said Shell remains incompetent to stand trial or assist in his defense.
Clark said if Beck makes a ruling at some point in the case that Shell can go to trial, the state is ready.
“We’re prepared to try the case if he’s competent to stand trial,” Clark said.
According to a letter from Lakeshore dated February 2007 it may not be just Shell’s mental status that’s deteriorated over the years. Shell’s health has suffered, too.
He has Parkinson’s Disease, is confined to a wheelchair and “cannot perform any activities of daily living without the staff’s help,” Dr. Kenneth Gray, an attending physician at Lakeshore, wrote in a letter a year ago.
Shell has been at Lakeshore since Beck ordered him committed in July 2000 after hearing testimony from mental health experts who evaluated Shell. Those experts said at the time that Shell was not competent to stand trial or to help his attorney, Randy Fallin, in preparing the defense before going to trial for killing Goodin and Keyser.
Goodin, Johnson City municipal judge from 1980-85, represented the estate of Katie Roselle Shell, Shell’s ex-wife. When Goodin drew up her will, Shell said it shorted him $100,000 in stock. Shell showed up at Goodin’s office the day of the shooting with a .22-caliber revolver.
Investigators said Shell entered the building and walked past Goodin’s secretary without speaking, then fired four shots after a brief verbal dispute with Goodin.
Goodin died from two gunshot wounds to the head and Keyser, who was not connected to the case, died from a gunshot wound to the chest.
According to reports early in the case, Shell told Goodin just before the shooting that he had had “about as much of you as I can take.” Shell told a judge that he “went crazy.”
Shell is being held in the Washington County Detention Center without bond.