According to a Law and Crime report on Monday, September 25, 2023, a tragic act of violence shook a family and community in Mobile County, Alabama in January 2022.
25-year-old Damien Winslow Washam attacked three family members with a samurai sword, killing his mother Helen Nettles Washam, and severely injuring his uncle and brother.
The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office responded to the family’s home on Mausap Road in Eight Mile after receiving an emergency call.
They arrived to find 61-year-old Helen deceased from multiple lacerations.
Damien’s uncle, who was bedridden with cerebral palsy, had severe lacerations to his face and was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
Damien’s brother, who has autism, sustained cuts to his wrists but was treated at the scene.
Damien fled the horrific scene in the family’s green Honda Accord.
Refusing to stop for police, a high-speed chase ensued until Damien was apprehended with spike strips deployed by the Saraland police department.
A mobile county deputy tased Washam when he attempted to flee on foot. He sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
Detectives reported that Damien showed no remorse for attacking his own mother, uncle, and brother.
The family was left shocked and devastated, having no indication that Damien was capable of such violence.
According to Damien’s father Hubert, his son had no prior mental health issues and no criminal history apart from a minor marijuana possession charge.
However, Hubert noted Damien’s concerning shift in behavior and involvement in what seemed like a cult weeks before the attack.
Damien had recently become obsessed with a “crazy group of people” focused on getting energy from the sun.
He sent disturbing links about the group to his sisters.
In the month prior, Damien had also ordered and delivered unsettling items to the home including a knife, spiked brass knuckles, and a poster of the Egyptian god of the underworld.
More disturbing items arrived after Damien’s arrest.
Hubert speculated his son may have been planning to kill the whole family.
No one understood what prompted Damien’s obsession with the cult and subsequent violent behavior.
Hubert was devastated, saying “We’re broken. I’m broken.”
The community grieved the tragic and senseless loss of Helen, who was a beloved mother of four and a former substitute teacher.
Hubert described her as a “sweet, innocent person” who was “very kind and sweet” especially towards her children.
After multiple mental health evaluations while in custody, Damien was declared not guilty by reason of insanity.
The judge acquitted him of murder charges, acknowledging that severe mental illness drove him to commit the horrific acts against his family.
While justice was served given Damien’s state of mind, the community continues mourning Helen’s death and hoping for full recovery for Damien’s injured uncle and brother.
The family’s lives are forever changed by the traumatic events.
They, along with the broader community, are left trying to make sense of how a beloved son and brother could commit such an incomprehensible act of violence.
The road to healing will be long but the love surrounding Helen’s memory and the power of community support can help guide the family forward.