Jeffrey Michael Caylor – wanted for the seemingly random killing of an Iraqi refugee in a Sacramento Home Depot parking lot on March 16 – declared in open court last week that he’s pleading guilty to all charges against him, law enforcement officials said.
Caylor’s surprise statement, recounted by prosecutors and a public defender, came Thursday at his arraignment in Butte Superior Court on auto theft, driving-under-the-influence and other charges.
“After a convoluted story about corruption and an unlawful detainer that he was part of, he asked for a change of venue and said, ‘I plead guilty to everything in Butte County, Sacramento and Lincoln. Whatever they said, I’m guilty,’ ” recalled Butte County Deputy District Attorney Jessica Miller.
A onetime gang member, Caylor has a lengthy criminal history that includes attempted murder, attempted aggravated robbery and unlawful possession of firearms, according to court records in Kansas and Idaho. Law enforcement authorities who have dealt with him in the past said he does not have a history of targeting any particular ethnic group.
Leaders in Sacramento’s Muslim community have said they feared the shooting of Hassan Alawsi was a hate crime because Caylor, who had never met Alawsi, allegedly shot him after seeing him walk out of the Home Depot on Florin Road with his sister, who was wearing a Muslim head covering.
Caylor’s courtroom outburst Thursday came after Miller said Butte County would dismiss its charges against Caylor and his girlfriend, Kara Hamilton, so they could be transferred to Sacramento. Sacramento County has issued arrest warrants for Caylor in connection with the killing of Alawsi, as well as for a Sacramento home invasion the same day and assault with a firearm the next morning in the parking lot of a business on Manzanita Avenue, said Rod Norgaard, the Sacramento district attorney’s major crimes bureau chief.
There’s also an arrest warrant for Hamilton in the home invasion, Norgaard said, where a female victim was pistol-whipped. The green Buick LeSabre authorities say they believe Caylor used at the time of in Alawsi’s shooting was recovered at the home of Hamilton’s mother, along with a spent 9mm cartridge and live rounds. The police affidavit in support of Caylor’s arrest said the 9mm semi-automatic handgun recovered from the stolen car by the Chico Police Department matches a gun registered to Hamilton.
Norgaard has requested a copy of the court transcript of Caylor’s statement and said he will seek to get it into evidence for the Sacramento County cases. “He could always come to our county and plead guilty to everything, but he hasn’t done that yet,” Norgaard said.
Caylor has not been charged with a hate crime, Norgaard said, but he said that could change if new evidence is discovered.
Caylor’s remarks were confirmed by Hamilton’s public defender, Robert Radcliffe. “It was a long, rambling statement, most of which was how Sacramento was basically going to kill him and there was some kind of conspiracy. I heard him say he would plead guilty to everything ‘if that makes a difference,’ ” Radcliffe recalled. “I remember him making a comment that anything Hamilton did do was because he told her to.”
Radcliffe said the statement didn’t sound exactly like a confession, however.
Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, who has been a prosecutor for 36 years, called Caylor’s courtroom outburst highly unusual, “especially since he is probably going to face the death penalty.”
Caylor, 44, and Hamilton, 42, who was traveling with her 12-year-old son, had been arrested in Chico on a variety of charges, including having a youth under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of concentrated cannabis, driving while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, receiving stolen property and auto theft, according to the Butte County District Attorney’s Office.
Caylor and Hamilton declined to speak to The Bee. Kevin Sears, Caylor’s public defender in Butte County, did not respond to calls from The Bee.
Caylor’s wife, Sherralyn Caylor, a nurse in Idaho, expressed sympathy for Alawsi’s family. “It breaks my heart. ... I just want him (Caylor) convicted; he should never get out.”
Sherralyn Caylor, who said she is getting a divorce, told The Bee her husband never had “any race issues.” She said her husband had a dispute with a landlord who she believed was East Indian, “but he never had an issue with people because of their skin color. He didn’t care, and I never heard him mention anything about religion.”
Caylor has “White Knight” tattooed on his back, Sherralyn Caylor said, because “he saw himself as a white knight.”
He went by the email handle “WhiteKnight” and briefly operated White Knight Investments, White Knight Enterprises, White Knight Fight Gear, White Knight Custom Detailing, White Knight Classics and White Knight Paint & Control while on parole in Idaho, according to court and business records.
But there was no evidence Caylor belonged to any hate groups or white supremacist gangs in Kansas, said Sheriff Randy Henderson of Reno County, Kan. He arrested Caylor for a New Year’s Eve 1991 shootout between Caylor’s gang and several rival drug dealers.
“He was running with three African American males when the four of them decided to rip off some crack dealers” and got into gunbattle in Hutchinson, Kan., Henderson said. “He had three Crips with him and he was a Blood. They met in a youth facility up around Topeka, Kansas, where they had done time.”
Caylor was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and grew up in the Kansas City area, his wife said. She said he graduated from high school and has an associate degree in culinary arts.
He was first arrested in March 1988 and was incarcerated until June that year, said Jeremy Barclay, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections. Caylor spent another year in prison starting in June 1990, and then in 1992 pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery in the New Year’s Eve shootout.
“I recall this was a walk-up shooting, three or four guys opened fire on the house, and two guys were inside,” said Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder. “There was animosity between the two groups, and the one individual behind the door was a known drug dealer.”
Caylor served nearly a decade in prison, most of it in Kansas and the last several years in Idaho under an interstate agreement. While in Kansas, he racked up numerous disciplinary reports, including disobeying orders, lewd acts and possession of dangerous contraband, according to the Kansas Department of Corrections. He was released on parole in February 2002 in Boise, Idaho. Kansas discharged him from parole on Aug. 2, 2010, over the objections of the Idaho Parole Commission.
According to the minutes of his parole hearing in June 1999, Caylor admitted he was extremely fortunate not to be locked up for murder, but added that he was 21 when the crimes were committed. “He owed $5,000 for a drug deal and admits he made over $80,000 per week dealing drugs,” according to the minutes, but added he was never convicted of any drug charges. Caylor said he owned a night club and escort service “and was involved with some wrong people. ... He says that he has been trying to get out of gang activity for a long time, and once you are in the gangs, it’s hard to get away from it.”
Never filed income taxes
Caylor admitted he’d never filed income taxes but said he had a job, mental health counseling and drug rehab set up.
After attempting to run a number of businesses in Idaho, he moved to California to live with Hamilton and opened Po’Manz Gifts & More Smoke Shop on Manzanita Avenue in Carmichael. On Friday, there was a padlock on the door and the remains of a cigarillos ad and the words “Your Sweet Times Start Here.”
Hassan Alawsi’s sister and brother – who depended on him for support – have taken Alawsi’s body back to Iraq to be buried. Alawsi had fled the violence and kidnappings in Iraq and thought he had found a safe home in Sacramento, where he became a successful artist, taught special-needs youths in Elk Grove and befriended his neighbors.
After going with his sister Sajida into the Home Depot to buy some paint and pesticides, Alawsi waited at the car while his sister, wearing an Arab-style dress and a head scarf, returned to the store to use the restroom, police said. Alawsi was shot once in the back and once in the palm of his right hand. At 7:30 the next morning, Caylor and Hamilton appear in a security video driving up to the owner of a liquor store, who said Caylor pointed a gun at him and pulled the trigger three times, but the gun malfunctioned, police said.
Over the next few days, Caylor and Hamilton are expected to be transferred to the Sacramento County jail.