Records: Buford man charged in sister’s killing has long grappled with mental illness

Dennis Puckett

Dennis Puckett

BUFORD — In February 1997, Dennis Puckett threatened to cut a man’s head off with his pocket knife. A few months later, he burned down two vacant homes in Buford in a case of misguided payback.

Family at the time told authorities Puckett’s lingering, tempestuous mental illness was at the root of both crimes. According to police and court records, Puckett’s problems have not been reined in.

Puckett, 57, was charged Thursday with brutally killing his sister, Vickie Bowles, 54, in the Buford apartment they shared. As early as October, Puckett had called the Georgia Crisis Line threatening to kill himself by drinking anti-freeze, a situation that was diffused before police arrived, records show.

An exact cause of death and motive have not been specified.

Police were called to the apartment at 375 Power Ave. about 4 p.m. Wednesday for a welfare check. Inside, they found Bowles lying facedown with “obvious signs of violence throughout the house, and blunt force trauma about the body,” said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. Edwin Ritter.

Arrest warrants for Puckett indicate a knife was used in the slaying. He’s being held without bond at the Gwinnett County Jail on charges of murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

A psychologist who treated Puckett in the late 90s for alcoholism and depression found he was prone to violent blackouts. More recently, Puckett was combative with Lawrenceville police during a 2010 DUI arrest, when he openly drank beer in front of officers, antagonized them with racial epithets and called another a “stupid slut,” according to a police report.

“He reported episodes of alcohol induced blackouts where he would have no recall of his actions for ... hours to days,” psychologist Ronald C. Young wrote in a 1997 report, obtained by the Daily Post in court records. “During these blackouts he had become verbally and physically aggressive.”

Officers were forced to repeatedly use Tasers on Puckett during the DUI stop when he refused to be handcuffed. He claimed to be a disabled veteran who was disgruntled with President Barack Obama, the report states.

In 1999, Puckett pleaded guilty to attacking the man with a knife and burning down two houses near downtown Buford. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison but served about three, according to Georgia Department of Corrections records.

Puckett admitted to waving down a driver he thought was speeding in a Lawrenceville neighborhood, putting a knife to the man’s throat and threatening to cut his head off. The man pulled away, cutting his ear, and contacted police, records show.

In the arson incident, Puckett copped to setting two Lawson Street homes ablaze with his lighter because he thought the owner had stolen some tools from him. “The owner of the houses, however, was not the owner that ... Mr. Puckett thought it was,” Puckett’s attorney said in court. “The owner is a very elderly gentleman.”

In separate hearings, Puckett’s wife and attorney advised judges that he’d grappled with bipolar disorder for many years and suffered from hallucinations and “hearing voices.”

As a special condition of Puckett’s probation, a Gwinnett judge ordered his probation officer to request periodic treatment and reports by Georgia Mental Health Services, court documents show.

The next step in Puckett’s murder case is a probable cause hearing scheduled for March 15.


Location of homicide

Location of homicide