published Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Chattooga County shooting victim had history of violence

2646 John Jones Road
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SUMMERVILLE, Ga. -- Two years before somebody blasted bullets into William Robert Packer's body inside his home, the North Georgia man stood over another bleeding body, a 12-gauge shotgun in Packer's hands.

On Monday, Chattooga County Sheriff Mark Schrader remained quiet when asked for details surrounding Packer's death. He would only say that investigators found the 63-year-old inside his home at 2646 John Jones Road after getting a 911 call around 4 p.m. Saturday.

But court records show that Packer's home has been a crime scene several times. Neighbors say the atmosphere could flip from cordial to dangerous without warning. Some lives were threatened; some were lost.

But until Saturday, the place had never been more violent than in October 2010. Packer accused James Kirby of stealing from his home. Then, he shot Kirby through the chest, killing him.

He told investigators that he had no choice, that Kirby was going to stab him while high on cocaine. Chattooga County juries later acquitted Packer in two separate murder trials, most recently in April.

Kirby's younger brother, Michael, said Monday that Packer deserved to be killed. It's karma. But Michael said he isn't the culprit. He said he didn't know Packer died until a family member called him Sunday night, and the sheriff's office hasn't even contacted him about the killing.

"I'm sorry he's dead," Michael said. "But he killed my brother. What goes around, comes around."

Before James' death, court records show, Packer used his gun on others. In May 2007, he fired shots at his wife while she sat on the couch, hitting the floor near her feet.

Then, in April 2010, Packer accused his girlfriend of eating his food, drinking his Coca-Colas and sleeping with other men. The girlfriend told deputies that Packer pressed a loaded Colt .45 against her head.

"I was laying in bed trying to sleep," the woman told the sheriff's office in a written statement. "He was coming in the room, saying he was going to [expletive omitted] me up."

Six months later, he killed James Kirby.

Michael Kirby said he and James, worked for Packer when they were boys. They mowed his lawn, cut his firewood and bought him groceries. Like all of his friends, they called him Bob.

Packer was laid back, most of the time. But sometimes, Michael said, he got angry. And when he got angry, he lost control.

"When he got drunk, man, he turned into a different person," Michael said. "And when he drank, he stayed drunk for two, three days. He'd get up and drink all day."

Michael said Packer mixed alcohol with the pain medications. Packer and James would then go hunting -- sometimes on other people's property, sometimes at night, sometimes while driving Packer's car.

"He liked killing things," Michael said.

One day in October 2010, Michael and his brother were sitting on their porch when James got a call from Packer. Michael said Packer accused his brother of stealing from him, threatened to kill him.

James then walked over to Packer's house. The only two people who know what happened next are now dead, but Packer later claimed self-defense.

"Packer shot him when he opened the door and found Kirby brandishing a knife," his attorney, Albert Palmour, wrote in a pretrial motion.

Michael doesn't believe his brother attacked Packer. He said his brother never carried a knife.

After his brother's death, Michael asked the sheriff's office if they could prevent Packer from driving past his house. They told him no.

Every time he saw Packer, Michael's anger swelled. He eventually moved from Summerville to Armuchee so he wouldn't have to see him. But on Sunday night he learned another painful fact: Not even Packer's death will heal him.

"I'm still mad," he said.

Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com

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