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Free to kill

Man sentenced to Cycle Breakers probation charged with murdering his father.

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UNBROKEN CYCLE: Probationer McFee charged with murder.
  • UNBROKEN CYCLE: Probationer McFee charged with murder.

The brother of a man who fatally bludgeoned their father in May says that if Circuit Judge Willard Proctor hadn't put his brother on probation on two sequential offenses, the father would still be alive.

George M. McFee Jr., 27, is being held in the Pulaski County jail for murder after he hit his father in the head with a hammer at his father's home at 18 Whitmore Circle.

It was McFee's second attack on George McFee Sr., 67, to draw police notice. In June 2004, the younger McFee was arrested after he hit his father in the head with a shovel, causing lacerations. A bench warrant for his arrest was issued in September and an order forbidding him to contact his father was issued in November. McFee Jr. pleaded guilty to the charge of 2nd-degree domestic battery in 2005 and was placed on five years probation by Proctor, who ordered him to enter a program in anger management and domestic abuse and do 30 hours of community service.

In August 2006, McFee Jr. was stopped by police for speeding and a gun was discovered in his car. After failing to appear for a court date, McFee Jr. pleaded guilty in Proctor's court in August 2007 to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Proctor gave McFee Jr. probation once more, tacking on an order for McFee to attend Cycle Breakers, the non-profit agency that Proctor created to counsel probationers.

A three-man panel of the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has recommended that Proctor be removed from the bench for his operation of Cycle Breakers, which was supported entirely by probation fees ordered by the judge.

McFee Jr. paid fees ranging from $230 a month to $150 a month between October 2007 and April of this year, when he fell into arrears.

In March of this year, Sarah Ann McFee, McFee Jr.'s stepmother, sought a protective order against her stepson after he demanded to be let into her house, threatened to knock out the windows in her home and shoved her. She dropped the petition, however.

On the evening May 14, McFee Jr. argued again with his father and hit him in the head with a hammer. McFee Jr. woke his step-mother to tell her to check on McFee Sr. and then left in her car. McFee Sr. died of his injuries at UAMS Medical Center.

“He should have been doing jail time,” McFee Jr.'s brother, Dale McFee, 45, said. “My daddy would be here today.” He said his brother's attacks on his father were regular.

McFee Sr. was found guilty in 2005 on theft of property charges and sentenced to one year on probation. He was also in Proctor's court. He'd served time for marijuana possession in the 1990s.

The Judicial Discipline panel found that Proctor had allowed one probationer to stay in his home and later sent money to him in prison. The broadest allegations of the case were that Proctor had substantially increased probation fees in his court, relative to other courts in Pulaski County, to enhance the revenue stream for the nonprofit Cycle Breakers.

Prosecuting attorney Jill Kamps, who according to the case records handled the county's case against McFee Jr., said she couldn't recall the case. But, she added, a sentence of probation for a conviction on felon in possession of a firearm would not be “abnormal.”

Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson reviewed the files later and said the probation in the first domestic abuse case was typical, but he said there was no “negotiated plea” entered by McFee in subsequent violations. He said McFee pleaded guilty directly to the judge, who decided on punishment.

He said the records don't reflect what precisely happened in the McFee cases, but added, “When someone has subsequent offenses, it's typical to ask for pen time.”

The judge has not been taking calls from the Arkansas Times since investigative articles by Mara Leveritt began detailing irregularities in his handling of probation matters.

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