Grand jury in Georgia to hear case of 88-year-old veteran who died after a fight

By BILLY HOBBS | The Union-Recorder | Published: October 28, 2020

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. (Tribune News Service) — A Baldwin County grand jury is expected to hear a case of an 88-year-old veteran who died in April after he and another veteran were involved in a fight at the Georgia War Veterans Home in Milledgeville, The Union-Recorder has learned.

When the case is presented to grand jurors they will be asked to consider whether to return criminal indictments against the survivor of the fight.

The next grand jury convenes Wednesday, Nov. 4, in Baldwin County.

Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley said Monday he could not say when the case would go before a grand jury but that it would be sometime soon.

The men involved in the April 8 fight inside a residence room of the Vinson Building where the crime reportedly took place were identified as David Kevin Tarpley, 63 of Gordon; and Roland Alyre Daigle, 88, of Atlanta, according to Milledgeville Police Department Maj. Michael Hudson, who heads the criminal investigations division.

The fight erupted about three weeks after the coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic hit Milledgeville and Baldwin County in mid-March.

Tarpley was injured in the fight and required treatment at Navicent Health Baldwin hospital in Milledgeville. He subsequently was released but was never arrested or charged with a crime in connection with the fight.

"The older man went into the younger man's room as I recall and began a fight," Hudson recalled during a telephone interview Monday morning. "The older man later stumbled into the hallway and collapsed.

Efforts to revive Daigle by the personnel on the scene, as well as personnel with Grady Emergency Medical Services who arrived a short time later, were unsuccessful.

Baldwin County Deputy Coroner Foster Hurt told the newspaper Monday afternoon that he pronounced Daigle dead at the scene at 11 a.m. on April 8.

Hurt said he wore his PPE, including a mask, to the scene since COVID-19 already had claimed the lives of some veterans at the Georgia War Veterans Home.

Daigle's body was subsequently taken to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Laboratory in Macon where an autopsy was performed to establish the cause of death, Hurt said.

Hurt said it was his understanding from authorities that Daigle wandered into another residence and got into an altercation with another man.

" Mr. Daigle then walked out into the hallway where he collapsed," Hurt said.

The medical examiner who performed the autopsy concluded that Daigle sustained arterial sporadic cardiovascular disease complicated by a physical altercation.

Hurt said the medical examiner listed the manner of death as homicide.

Milledgeville Police Detective Phillip Vinson later launched an investigation into what happened.

A copy of the written report from Vinson was obtained by The Union-Recorder.

Vinson said police officers arrived at the Georgia War Veterans Home at 2249 Vinson Highway about 10:10 a.m. and took information from a man who told them the two men had gotten into a physical altercation.

"Officers were advised ... there were no witnesses to the incident or video and emergency medical service (personnel) were performing CPR on Mr. Daigle, who collapsed after the altercation took place," Vinson said in his report.

About 20 minutes later, police officers returned to the Georgia War Veterans Home where they learned that Daigle had died.

At that time, it was learned that a witness had come forward.

Milledgeville Police Officer Nicolas O'Steen said in a report that he filed after the incident that an employee came forward as a witness to the altercation.

"She gave us a written statement, then told us what happened," O'Steen said in his report. "She stated that she was walking down the hall and heard Tarpley telling Daigle to get out of his room multiple times," O'Steen said. "She peeked in the room and saw Tarpley on top of Daigle, punching him multiple times in the face. She said she waved her arms at the nurse's station, but nobody saw her. Mr. Tarpley then got up and Mr. Daigle got up and stumbled to the hallway."

Someone then gave Daigle his walker. The man reportedly walked a couple of more steps before he collapsed in the hallway, according to the report filed by the police officer.

All information regarding the case was later turned over to the on-call detective.

"This case is currently under active investigation with charges pending after consultation with the district attorney's office due to facts and circumstances surrounding the case," Vinson said in a "synopsis" of the case.

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