Jail snitch helps law; should law help him?
As his sentencing in the attempted murder of his ex-wife approaches, the informer says he didn't strike a deal for leniency.
By CHRIS TISCH
Published May 14, 2006
LARGO - Andre Talley swung a steak knife as he chased his wife out the door of their Dunedin home. Terri Stevens had the couple's 5-year-old daughter, Alexis, with her as she ran.
Outside on the street, Talley caught Stevens and plunged the knife in her back six times as Alexis watched.
Stevens nearly died. She spent more than a month in the hospital, much of that time in a coma. Talley was charged with attempted murder, for which he faced up to life in prison.
But Talley is a professional police informer. A snitch for local law enforcement for years, Talley listened closely as other inmates in the Pinellas County Jail began telling him about their crimes. Then he asked his attorney to tell prosecutors what he knew.
Talley told of a threat he heard on a prosecutor's life. He gave a deposition in an attempted murder case that ended with a guilty plea. And he was summoned to testify in one of Pinellas County's most high-profile murder cases this year, helping prosecutors secure a conviction.
Talley, 41, has said he never demanded a lighter sentence in exchange for his testimony, nor did prosecutors promise anything.
On Friday, a judge will determine what kind of sentence Talley should receive for committing such a brutal crime in light of the assistance he has provided to prosecutors.
"It's truly going to be one where the judge is going to have to make his own decision," said prosecutor Bill Loughery.
Argument leads to stabbing
On May 18, 2003, Talley and Stevens argued all day long at their Dunedin home. Though they had been a couple for several years and had two children, they had married only a few days before.
Talley went out for a while, then returned and threatened Stevens while she lay in bed with her daughter. Stevens ran out of the house with Alexis behind her. Talley unsheathed a serrated steak knife from the butcher block in the kitchen and gave chase.
The couple's 8-month-old son, Charles, was left behind in the house.
Talley caught Stevens in the street. While Alexis pleaded with him to stop, Talley began stabbing Stevens, stopping when a taxi happened to appear. Talley ran away. Stevens was taken by helicopter to the hospital.
Talley fled to the Sunshine Skyway bridge, where he considered jumping. He finally called the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office from the top of the bridge. He asked to be connected to Capt. Cal Dennie, for whom Talley had once worked as a confidential informer.
Dennie eventually came on the line and talked Talley off the bridge. Talley then turned himself in. He was charged with attempted murder.
Stevens lay in the hospital for 38 days. She eventually recovered, though her daughter's emotional wounds lasted much longer. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and fell behind in school, though she has done much better this year, Stevens said.
"For the first nine months, she had a nightmare every night where she woke up screaming at the top of her lungs," said Stevens, 37, who teaches school in Tampa. "I would have to go in and lay in bed with her. She would pray to God every night that she had good dreams."
Talley eventually posted bail and was released. But he was re-arrested days later after Stevens accused him of driving past her slowly and eye-balling her - violating a court order.
Stevens said she knew her husband, who she has since divorced, would become an informer in the jail.
"He's doing this because he wants to lessen his sentence," Stevens said. "To me, it's very obvious that that is his motivation."
Fate in the hands of God
Andre Talley says he has left his fate to the Almighty.
While testifying in the trial of Timothy Humphrey, Talley said he didn't demand a lesser sentence in exchange for his testimony. He would leave his future in the hands of God.
Humphrey was charged with first-degree murder for manipulating his wife into killing an ex-girlfriend for him. Talley provided some powerful testimony about letters Humphrey asked him to send to his wife. The letters urged her to lie to prosecutors about her involvement in the murder.
Talley handed them over to his attorney instead, who called prosecutors. Suddenly, Talley was a state witness against Humphrey, whose murder trial earlier this year gained considerable attention from the media - including television news magazine 48 Hours.
Humphrey's defense attorney, Joseph McDermott, called Talley "Andre Tell-a-lie" and asked him where that name came from. Talley said people called him that when he played cards.
Talley also gave a deposition against a one-time cellmate charged with attempted murder for the stabbing of a woman.
"Yeah, I would say I'm hoping not to get the maximum," he said then. "Yes, the maximum is life."
McDermott said Talley frequently approached fellow inmates preaching about God, which he thinks was a ruse to get them talking.
"He talks a good story ... the "praise the Lord' stuff," McDermott said. "But Talley being a professional ( informer), I have my doubts. He did manage to get evidence in a couple of different cases. And he knows how to do it."
Messages left at the office of Talley's attorney, David Parry, were not returned.
Asked whether he should get a lesser sentence for his efforts, McDermott said: "I don't think he deserves it. He's a menace."
Leaving it up to the judge
Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub prosecuted Humphrey. He says Talley never asked for a break on his sentence.
"He was definitely helpful to the case," Schaub said.
Schaub expects to tell Judge Phillip Federico on Friday that Talley testified, but said he will say little else. He will offer no suggestion as to what Talley should get.
"What he did was pretty appalling, so I'll leave it up to the court," Schaub said. "That's why Judge Federico wears the robe and I don't."
Loughery, the prosecutor who is assigned Talley's case, also said he won't make a recommendation.
"I am going to ask the judge to start at the maximum and then at his discretion take off as much time as he thinks is appropriate," he said.
Stevens said she wants Talley to get at least 20 years in prison so her children will be adults by the time he is released.
"I don't know what would happen, if he would try to do it again," she said. "I don't even want to think about what would happen, if he would want to finish the job."
Chris Tisch can be reached at 727 892-2359 or firstname.lastname@example.org
[Last modified May 14, 2006, 22:30:06]
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