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Mitchell Evans’s son and nephew had similar mental health journeys with different outcomes.

Evans’s son is thriving now. His nephew, Isaiah Evans Caesar, was sentenced to at least 36 years in prison Wednesday for the murder of a Hollister man and the murder of his own grandmother in 2018 – Evan’s mother.

During a point in his testimony, defense attorney Tonza Ruffin asked Evans about his own son — Isaiah’s cousin. 

“I’m not afraid to talk about mental health because this county is a big county that needs more attention to mental health and I’m not afraid to sit up here and talk about that,” he said.

Evans said his son was 19 when he had his bout. “Luckily we were there and got on top of that but basically he had the same behavior.”

Evans said his son was working at a pharmaceutical firm in Wilson and where his cousin thought Al Qaeda was after him, Evans’s son thought Egyptians were after him. “He ended up losing his job because he got so paranoid.”

Evans said his son’s stepmom got so concerned that she called him. “I went to get him and he had been sleeping at the truckstop for two weeks.”

He got his son to come home with him. “I smelled vinegar. He had taken vinegar and sprayed it all around the tops of the rooms because he said it was going to keep the evil spirits out of the house. He didn’t want anything to happen to me.”

His son was also burning candles and incense. “At that time we hadn’t got on top of it. We didn’t know what was going on.”

His son disappeared and Evans received a call from Greensboro. He learned his son was acting strangely and erratically in Walmart there. 

When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the department store Evans said his son ran. “When they tried to catch him he actually assaulted the police officers.”

The next week Evans said his son again began to exhibit strange behavior. “We finally ended up having him committed.”

Evans said his son spent a month getting help and received an extensive diagnosis which ended up as schizophrenia, the same diagnosis as his cousin Isaiah. “It took a year or so before the medication got adjusted and set right but he’s 33 now, living a productive life. But that could have easily been him.”

Evans said the reason he wanted to testify was because, “I want to bring awareness to the mental illness issue. That could have easily been my son sitting right there. If I didn’t get on top of it he would have been sitting right here but he would have shot two police officers.”

Evans said he knew there was something majorly wrong with his nephew. “At the same time I didn’t know what to do. He was in the military and it was my understanding that it should have been a military issue because he was in the military and was technically not a civilian and hadn’t broken civilian laws at that time.”

He said he and other family members begged the military to do something.

Under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Keith Werner, Evans said he didn’t believe his nephew would make it in the Marine Corps because of his past history. “I thought for the short period of time the military would do a thorough evaluation and say there’s no way he could serve. The only thing I can tell you is when he went to Parris Island he excelled but when he went to Georgia that went completely in a totally different direction.”

Speaking with visiting Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons, Evans said, “We’re losing three lives in this whole deal which is unfortunate. I want to let the families know and other families know that we’ve been praying for you. My heart goes out to you because a loss is a loss. I wish I had some better words to let them know how I feel. I just want to let them know I’m praying for the families for your loss and hopefully at some point in time we all can bring closure.”

When asked by Sermons if he thought his nephew’s condition was grounds for a mitigating sentence in the death of his grandmother, Evans said, “I can’t say that because that’s totally up to the court and I appreciate the court for asking my opinion regarding that matter.”

He said however, “I can say, speaking from experience firsthand, that my son could have actually done the same thing if there hadn’t been intervention and constant monitoring and evaluation of him.”

He said he believed the rest of the family would say, “While he needs to be held accountable for what he did, he had a mental aspect and whether he spent time in a mental institution or another institution he needs to be properly evaluated over a long period of time to make sure he’s getting what we he needs at a mental state where it should be.”

Evans said he hoped the sentence would give his nephew the opportunity “to find Jesus Christ, to get to know God and look completely down at himself and find proper recourse.”