Much to the disappointment and anger of the family and friends of Sherry Ingold, her killer, Roland Mitchell Dampeer, has been found not guilty by reason of insanity following a 40-minute non-jury criminal trial in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Mississippi. The trial was held in an Oxford, MS, federal courtroom on the morning of Friday, April 22.
Dampeer stood trial for the shooting death of United States Postal Service worker Sherry Ingold who was killed while delivering mail along Highway 35 in Hesterville on Jan. 16, 2020.
U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock presided over the trial, with M. Scott Davis and Gregory S. Park representing Dampeer and Paul D. Roberts and Scott F. Leary representing the prosecution.
Upon entering the court room dressed in an orange jumpsuit, Dampeer was seated with his lawyers and received counsel along with pats on the back from his defense attorney.
The family of Sherry Ingold — including husband Danny, sister Brenda Clausen-Newman, family friend Vickie Dees Gove, Gove’s daughter Lyndsey, and many others — sat in the courtroom waiting in dread of the expected outcome of the brief trial.
Judge Aycock noted that Dampeer’s defense filed for a non-jury trial on March 24, 2022, and the motion had been unopposed by prosecution.
She then read significant facts from the case to be placed into the trial record, including:
— Dampeer’s indictment on Feb. 26, 2020, for two counts of maliciously and unlawfully murdering Sherry Ingold while she was engaged in the performance of her job and knowingly discharging a 9mm Ruger LCR pistol.
— The court received numerous requests for psychological and psychiatric evaluations.
— In the first report on October 5, 2020, examiners determined that Dampeer was suffering from a mental disease rendering him incompetent to stand trial and unable to assist counsel in his defense.
— The court accepted that report into evidence on October 20, 2020, and committed the defendant to determine the possibility of regaining Dampeer’s competency in order to stand trial.
— On June 1, 2021, Dampeer was reported to have made improvements and it was believed he could be restored to competency with treatment. Judge Aycock granted the request to treat Dampeer at that time.
— In a report presented to the court in October 2021, examiners found that Dampeer was then able to understand the matters of his case and was mentally stable enough to assist in his defense if he complied with scheduled medication. In previous competency hearings, Dampeer’s attorney said his client had been regularly taking medication — two daily pills and an injection every two weeks.
— In October 2021, the U.S. prosecution’s psychiatric reports stated that Dampeer had suffered from a schizoaffective disorder that made him unable to understand or accept the wrongfulness of his actions at the time of Ingold’s murder.
— In February 2022, the court accepted the report, and the prosecution consented to a non-jury trial.
Forensic psychologist Dr. Kristina Lloyd and her intern, Marissa Abrams, who performed the psychiatric evaluations on Dampeer, were also in attendance for the trial. The prosecution requested that the two remain in the courtroom and eventually take the stand.
Before examining Lloyd and Abrams, prosecutor Paul D. Roberts presented a factual report detailing significant events throughout the entirety of the case.
Roberts read that government documents show that around noon on Thursday, January 16, 2020, Dampeer shot Sherry Ingold, then 58, in the head while she was delivering mail along Highway 35 in Hesterville. Evidence showed that a 9mm Ruger LCR pistol was used. Roberts noted that Ingold had been working with the United States Postal Service since September 1994 and was killed while performing her duties.
Roberts noted that Dampeer had previously worked as a prison guard and a truck driver trainee. Evidence showed that in the early hours of Jan. 16, 2020, Dampeer broke into a residence in Greenwood and later stopped at a Waffle House in Winona. On his way to Attala County, Dampeer knocked on the doors of two homes, asking to enter them.
Around 11 a.m., Dampeer entered the Sunflower grocery store on Highway 12 in Kosciusko and asked a local woman, Andrea Goss, to leave the store with him. He then grabbed and picked her up before throwing her into a meat cooler when she struggled and exited the store.
As Goss drove home from Sunflower with her father following her in his vehicle, the two encountered Dampeer coming south as they drove north along Highway 35 near Hesterville. Dampeer blocked the road and pulled out a handgun, but Goss and her father evaded Dampeer in their vehicles.
GPS confirmed that Sherry Ingold was in the same location as Dampeer delivering mail on her postal route when Dampeer attacked her.
One witness said that they heard Ingold shout, “Let go of my hair!” as she attempted to fight off Dampeer. Witness reports state that Ingold was shot in the top of her head and was surrounded by blood.
Dampeer fled the scene and was later stopped and apprehended by the Attala County Sheriff’s Office. While handcuffed, Dampeer tried to escape and was shot in the leg by a highway patrolman.
Highway patrolmen found a handgun in Dampeer’s car that was purchased in Indiana in 2016. Fingerprints matching Dampeer were also discovered in Ingold’s vehicle.
Roberts then called Dr. Kristina Lloyd, who performed psychological evaluations on Dampeer, to the stand for questioning.
Lloyd, a forensic scientist at the Federal Medical Center-Butner prison in North Carolina, said a series of mental evaluations were performed on Dampeer and he was eventually diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
“The chemistry in (Dampeer’s) brain doesn’t work like most people,” Lloyd told the court.
Roberts then asked Lloyd to describe the process of restoring Dampeer to competency.
Lloyd said Dampeer was hallucinating, seeing illusions, and exhibiting disorganized speech and behavior prior to treatment. He was prescribed antipsychotic medication and antidepressants. Over time, dosages were increased, and he was prescribed an additional antipsychotic medication.
When asked by Roberts how it was determined Dampeer was unable to appreciate the facts of what occurred on Jan. 16, 2020, Lloyd said it was her clinical opinion that Dampeer suffered from severe mental illness at the time of Ingold’s murder. Lloyd said he was sick, acutely delusional, hallucinating, and unable to determine reality. Lloyd said Dampeer did not know what he was doing or that it was wrong.
Roberts then called Lloyd’s intern Marissa Abrams, who also performed evaluations on Dampeer’s mental competency, to the stand.
Abrams said she and Lloyd reviewed collateral and interviewed Dampeer. Abrams said Dampeer displayed erratic behavior on the day of Ingold’s murder and perceived that his skin color had changed. Dampeer reportedly asked a Waffle House waiter what he looked like and asked strangers if they were his family members. According to Abrams, Dampeer was disillusioned when he entered the Sunflower grocery store, thinking he was in a simulation. She said Dampeer then drove on the wrong side of the road because he believed he was being followed. She said Dampeer believed the radio was sending him personal messages, which he described as devil-like. After shooting Ingold, he later asked people where his mother and sister were before honking at police and being pulled over before attempting to flee.
Dampeer’s defense declined to cross-examine Lloyd and Abrams, and no further witnesses were called to the stand.
The victim impact statement
Lyndsey Gove Rigby, a close friend of the Ingold family, then took the stand to read a victims’ impact statement as she fought back tears. Before Rigby began, Judge Aycock apologized for having mispronounced Sherry’s name during the February 2022 competency hearing.
While looking Dampeer in the eyes, Rigby read her statement on behalf of the Ingold family:
“I wonder if you look into all of our eyes and see what you have done. We don’t believe you are sociopath or psychotic, so we know you have some sort of feelings. Are there certain things that you see throughout the day that remind you of January 16, 2020, the day you heinously shot and murdered our Sherry? Do you remember the feeling of pulling that trigger or the despair in her voice that day as she told you to let go of her hair, her blood all over the ground as you fled, knowing you had just shot her in the head and left her for dead? Did she scream? I hope you still hear that sound. Can you still see the fear through her bloodied face? I hope you never unsee it.
You see, although you murdered Sherry, she still lives on. You can’t kill someone as beautiful as she was. She lives through all of us and, little did you know, her organs were donated and have saved multiple mothers and given life to so many families already.
The day you pulled that trigger, it wasn’t just our lives you affected. Our whole communities were affected. The following day after you shot her in the head, hundreds of people gathered for our family and for Sherry to make purple bows to place on every mailbox in Attala and Holmes County — on mailboxes in Byram, Arkansas, California, Wisconsin on so on. We had people sending us messages and photos of their mailboxes and prayers from all over the United States. The day Sherry died, again the towns were silenced. Everyone had been pulling for her to survive and make a full recovery. Sherry's funeral was one of the most amazing things I had ever witnessed. Over 1,100 people attended. You can’t tell me she wasn’t loved. Her funeral procession line reached miles and along the way people lined the roads, exited their vehicles, and bowed their head as we passed that day. Today, yes two-and-a-half years later, purple bows still hang on mailboxes — now not for prayers for survival but as we seek justice for her.
We have no answers, no closure, no nothing from you, not even an apology. Do you even have regrets? Do you even care about the people you left hurting?
It’s been over two years of agonizing pain for our family, fighting with everything we have, and we have nothing. So, today as you walk away, I hope you look around and see every day from here on out what you did. I hope you never forget the sound of Sherry’s voice that day — her screams, her bloody face. But what I want you to remember most of all about her is she didn’t die that day. And she still lives on through all those she helped with her earthly body and through every single one of us in this courtroom and beyond these walls. Sherry was an amazing woman who did so much more than you could ever think about, and her memory isn’t tarnished like yours. She was loved, she was cherished, and she was one of the best women you would have ever met. Sherry’s soul is in heaven, her organs giving multiple people the chance at a full life again, and Jesus is patting her on the back for a job well done here on Earth. We will fight for her as she would have for each and every single one of us. Her daughter has gotten married, her son will be getting married in a few months, and her grandchildren will play ball tonight — all of which you stole from her and her family. You don’t deserve to ever see the light of day again. If anyone in this room feels Roland Dampeer deserves a not guilty plea for point-blank shooting Sherry Ingold in the head and it's accepted, we will let each of you take that up with the Good Lord on the day when you reach the gates of heaven.”
The trial comes to a close
After Rigby’s impact statement, Dampeer’s defense presented its plea for a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, and asked Judge Aycock to accept the plea as well as the witness testimonies.
Judge Aycock announced that the court found Dampeer not guilty of the charges in the indictment only by reason of insanity. Dampeer remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshals and was to be transported to a mental health facility for additional psychiatric evaluations to be provided to the court by the Bureau of Prisons.
Dampeer will continue to be examined to see if releasing him one day would potentially be dangerous. The Ingold family will be informed of the next hearing date to determine Dampeer’s dangerousness.
Judge Aycock said she understands the Ingold family’s frustration, and understands it was not the outcome they may have wanted.
U.S. Attorney Paul Roberts told The Star-Herald that federal statue states 40 days are allowed to evaluate Dampeer and provide a written report, but he expects the process to take longer.
“I'm not sure they can do the evaluation and get the report written in 40 days. I anticipate it will take longer than that, at which point there will be a hearing to determine his dangerousness,” said Roberts. “He has got the obligation to prove he's not dangerous. If not, then he will be in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons until” he is determined not to be a danger.
Roberts said he understands the frustration with how the case has played out felt by
Sherry Ingold’s family and friends.
“It's very frustrating that a person is not held criminally accountable for their acts. Obviously, being confined to a medical facility — granted, a prison medical facility — is not the same as being held found guilty, and I understand how frustrating that is. But the statute and the laws require that a person be competent to be held criminally liable for criminal acts. And if he's not criminally competent to form a mens rea — in this case, malice aforethought, the execution of a plan to murder somebody — he can't be held criminally accountable under the law,” said Roberts.
“While I understand that’s frustrating and certainly doesn't bring the family any justice, that's what we are dealing with. That's how we have to proceed with the law the way it is. We take an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States, and we can't just go out on our own and create a situation or an ending that is outside of the law or the Constitution of the United States,” the prosecutor said. “Nobody is happy about the results. I don’t think there’s any of the victim’s family, defendant, or the prosecution that is happy with the result. This is not how these cases go 99.9 percent of the time.”