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Judge accepts insanity plea in Taco Bell crash
Cope's current mental state still under evaluation
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Oliver Baylen Cope

A Superior Court judge accepted a plea of “not guilty by reason of insanity” by a man who crashed a car into a Swainsboro restaurant in 2017, killing one and injuring seven others.

Emanuel County Superior Court Judge Kathy S. Palmer ruled Wednesday that forensic reports by three separate psychiatrists were conclusive that Oliver Baylen Cope, now 19, was suffering from “bipolar disorder, manic, severe with psychotic features” at the time of the Sept. 28, 2017 crash. Cope intentionally drove across a four-lane highway, ramming his Dodge Charger into a Taco Bell restaurant. The act caused the death of a woman, Macy Lynn Purvis Mullis, as well as critical injury of three juveniles and four other adults.

Cope was charged with and indicted on two counts of felony murder (stemming from the one death); as well as eight counts of aggravated assault and one count of first degree criminal damage to property.

According to court documents filed with the Emanuel County Clerk of Courts, provided to the Statesboro Herald by Cope’s attorney Dan Snipes, Palmer accepted Cope’s plea of ‘not guilty by reason of insanity and delusional compulsion” after reviewing evidence and testimony from the three psychiatrists.

All three psychiatrists, in separate and independent examinations, stated that at the time of the crash, Cope was “suffering from auditory hallucinations and delusions,” according to the court documents.

Doctors told the court that on Sept. 28, 2017, due to his mental illness, Cope suffered “a desire to commit suicide in order to save others” and believed he could “save humanity” by doing so. They stated Cope “did not have the capacity at the time to distinguish between right and wrong” and that he was “out of touch with reality.”

Palmer ruled that Cope be detained for no more than 30 days by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities in order to evaluate his current mental condition, according to court records.

That evaluation will be sent to the judge, who will then determine whether Cope “meets criteria for inpatient commitment.”

Snipes said he intends to file additional pleadings with further details of Cope’s mental condition before the next hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.



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