Family of accused killer comes to his defense

Mental health, drugs cloud him, but he couldn't kill, they say
Apr. 16, 2013 @ 08:17 AM

The man accused of killing a woman in Lenoir on April 5 doesn't even remember it, the man's father said Monday.

“He didn’t know what happened," Richard Whisnant said of his son, Michael Whisnant. “When you’re on drugs, if you did something, you don’t know about it. I’d be in shock too if I saw a dead woman in the house.”

Michael Whisnant is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Tammy Lynn Benge Cassels, who had been romantically involved with Whisnant since 2011. Police found Cassels' body wrapped in a comforter in a back room of the house shared by Whisnant and his mother, Patty Triplett. Police have not said specifically how Cassels was killed, but a preliminary autopsy finding shows she died of a blow to the head. Among the items they removed from the house as evidence were two hammers, records said.

Patty Triplett visited her son Sunday in the Caldwell County Detention Center.

Wendy Annas, a cousin of Cassels' who was Whisnant's girlfriend for 18 years and had two children with him, said she tried for years to get Whisnant mental-health help.

“Evidently they (doctors) didn’t think he needed to go" to Broughton Hospital, a state psychiatric hospital in Morganton, she said.

Annas' long relationship with Whisnant was rocky at best. Police say Whisnant beat her, dragged her down a gravel driveway and once shot her. But she said murder is not in him.

“I don’t think he did it,” Annas said. “If he was going to kill somebody, he would have killed me. He’s got mental issues. He couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Sure, we had our ups and downs. We split up because I wanted a different life. But we had kids together. I loved him.”

Annas believes Whisnant needs help, regardless of the outcome of his murder case.

“I think he should be institutionalized even if he was found guilty,” she said.

Annas now is dating Whisnant’s uncle, Mark Whisnant, who agreed with Annas.

“If that man had any thoughts of killing anyone, it would be me or Wendy,” Mark Whisnant said.

Annas said she loved Cassels and believed she was a good girl.

“She didn’t deserve whatever happened to her,” she said.