by: Mark Becker Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
The mother of a man charged with putting on a Frankenstein monster's mask and robbing four convenience stores in Charlotte last week said her son has a long history of mental illness and has fallen through the cracks in the legal system.
"No, he is not a monster," Sherry Jefferies said Monday about her son, 28-year-old Eric Orr.
Orr's arrest over the weekend was just the latest in a long string of charges going back to his teenage years.
At one point, in 2008, police held Orr up as an example of the kind of repeat offender that has caused more than their share of problems in the city.
"He's been in and out of jails and spent some time in prison," Jefferies said about her son.
She's not making excuses for his long criminal record, but said he began to get into trouble when he was still in elementary school, and soon after that doctors diagnosed him with several mental illnesses including
bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Still, she said she could not get him committed to a mental hospital as a teenager because he was not suicidal.
"He fell through the cracks in the system," Jefferies said.
Jefferies said she had not seen her son for about six weeks when she learned he'd been charged with the robberies last week.
Prosecutors can't discuss the case but it is likely that they will try to convict Orr as an habitual felon which would mean more time in prison.
His mother said that may be what he needs.
"He needs some mental health treatment, and somebody to actually take some time to follow through with it to make sure he gets the help he needs," she said. "We knew that when you're out on the street there are basically two options
-- jail or the grave -- and as much as I hate seeing him in and out of jail it's much easier to visit him in there than to visit a grave site."
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