Seth Christopher Tatum, 28, gets life in ax murder plea deal/ Austin film actor Louis Perryman was targeted randomly, prosecutor says.

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Normal Seth Christopher Tatum, 28, gets life in ax murder plea deal/ Austin film actor Louis Perryman was targeted randomly, prosecutor says.

Post by Wrapitup on Wed Feb 02, 2011 7:00 am

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Seth Tatum, with his attorney, Ira Davis, right, also pleaded guilty to assaulting his mother's ex-boyfriend on the same day he killed Austin character actor Louis Byron Perryman. Tatum told police he killed Perryman, 67, for his car, prosecutor Judy Shipway said.
Man gets life in ax murder plea deal/Austin film actor Louis Perryman was targeted randomly, prosecutor says.


Published: 10:52 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011

An ex-con with a history of mental health and drug abuse problems was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to murder in the 2009 ax killing of Austin character actor Louis Byron Perryman.

Seth Christopher Tatum, 28, said little during the hearing in a Travis County courtroom. He sat quietly beside his lawyer at the defense table as Perryman's daughter, Jennifer, described the devastating loss of "my only family," a man who had minor roles in films such as the "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2," "Poltergeist" and "The Blues Brothers."

"I hope that if and when you ever get out, you think about something other than anger, something other than violence," Jennifer Perryman said.

Authorities said that Tatum came upon Perryman's house in South Austin by chance after he had attacked his mother's ex-boyfriend with garden shears and an iron fireplace poker earlier in the day on April 1, 2009. Tatum told police he killed Perryman, 67, for his car, prosecutor Judy Shipway said.

State District Judge Brenda Kennedy sentenced Tatum under the terms of a plea agreement. In addition to murder, Tatum pleaded guilty to aggravated assault for beating his mother's former boyfriend and was sentenced to 20 years.

Under the deal, the sentences will run consecutively, meaning Tatum must serve at least 40 years in prison before he could be released on parole.

Tatum was initially charged with capital murder and if convicted at trial, which had been scheduled for next week, would have had no chance at parole. Prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty, a decision that Jennifer Perryman said matched her wishes.

Tatum's lawyer, Ira Davis, said he thinks the facts of the case would not have supported a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity, in which a defendant has a severe mental disease or defect and does not know that his conduct was wrong.

Tatum has previously been convicted of burglary of a habitation and robbery in Travis County, according to his indictment.

Court documents show that as part of a competency hearing in 2006, a doctor said that Tatum was mentally ill with bipolar disorder and polysubstance dependence — the abuse of three or more psychoactive substances. Tatum served about three years in prison after those convictions and returned to Austin in early 2009.

Tatum's mother, Joan, told the Austin American-Statesman after her son's arrest that he had stopped taking his medications about a month before Perryman's death because he didn't think they were helping him. Joan Tatum, who could not be reached Tuesday, said her son had asked her to take him to Seton Shoal Creek Hospital to see if she could get him admitted on March 31, 2009, the night before the killing, but that they could not afford it.

The next day, Tatum attacked Carl Drake, his mother's ex-boyfriend, at the house where the three lived on Glen Meadow Drive, near William Cannon Drive and South Congress Avenue, court documents say.

Shipway, the prosecutor, said the attack, which left Drake with a fractured skull, occurred while Drake sat in the bathroom. She said there was no evidence of what initiated the attack, although she noted that the two had a history of bad blood and that Tatum had told detectives he had been using drugs before the attack.

Tatum fled the house on foot and later that day ended up on Darvone Circle, about two miles southwest of his house. There he saw Perryman on his front lawn and began a conversation, Shipway said.

Tatum told police he attempted to befriend Perryman to steal his car, Shipway said. They spoke for a bit in the yard before Perryman went inside his house, she said.

Perryman was sitting at a desk using his computer when Tatum came through the front door and struck him with an ax more than 10 times, mostly in the head, Shipway said.

Tatum fled in Perryman's 1994 Geo and told police he spent the night at a park, Shipway said.

The next day, he parked Perryman's car near the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center and told a sheriff's deputy that it was stolen and that he had killed the man who owned it, an arrest affidavit said.

In addressing Tatum from the witness stand Tuesday, Jennifer Perryman said her father had been in the Army and was always trying to improve himself. She said when her father died, he had been researching Sam Houston in the hopes of writing a play about the former president of the Republic of Texas.

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