Fresno man held in killing of grandma

The Fresno BeeDecember 19, 2012 

A 22-year-old Fresno man accused of carjacking his own mother and then crashing her car in Merced County told Fresno detectives he had done something far worse -- he had strangled his grandmother.

The murder of Joyce Frazier, 78, in her east-central Fresno home was long-feared by the family of Travis Ray Fendley, a schizophrenic who had been in and out of Fresno County Jail in recent months.

Each time Fendley was released he seemed more angry and violent, family members said, because jailers wouldn't give him anti-psychotic medicine they brought for him.

"We have called the jail begging them not to let him out because he was going to kill all of us," said his mother, Pamela Frazier.

That, according to his aunt, Becky Alford, was Fendley's intention after he was released Monday from the jail for the fifth time in as many months because of overcrowding.

Police told Alford that after killing his grandmother, he planned to kill her, his mother and a 4-year-old grandson who lives with her before killing himself.

Fresno police on Wednesday confirmed that Fendley had confessed to his grandmother's slaying and also to planning to kill other family members.

Family members lived in fear of his increasing violence and threats, they said.

He had killed and injured family pets, and tried to strangle his infant daughter in August. He told other family members he would strangle them, too.

Joyce Frazier was the only one who agreed to let Fendley live with her, even after he hit her on the head three weeks ago, Alford said.

When Fendley missed court appearances, judges threw him in jail, but then he was released because of overcrowding.

He missed a Dec. 5 court date for a felony probation violation and was jailed two days later. On Monday, he was released again.

Family members were worried that Fendley hadn't gotten his anti-psychotic medication. Undersheriff Tom Gattie said the sheriff's department relies on its medical staff through the county's Department of Public Health to dispense drugs to inmates, because the sheriff's office doesn't have the expertise to do it.

That day, as on so many other days, family members tried to get him help for his mental illness. Alford drove him to Community Center For Behavioral Health near Cedar and Alluvial avenues. The plan was for him to stay for mental health treatment.

But he stormed out of her car near Fresno State and returned to his grandmother's house near Shields and Fowler avenues.

Joyce Frazier was not supposed to let him return, but the family had agreed he could stay in her garage. She made sandwiches for her grandson, and he promised Alford he would go for mental health treatment Tuesday.

When Alford called her mother's home Tuesday, Fendley answered about 9:30 a.m. and said Frazier was still sleeping. He later told police he had killed her about 8 a.m., Alford said.

She arrived about 10:30 a.m. to find her mother dead and Fendley gone.

Fresno police detectives initially described Frazier's death only as suspicious, but an autopsy Wednesday by the Fresno County Coroner's Office confirmed she had been strangled.

About 11 a.m. Tuesday, Pamela Frazier was driving away from her home near National and Minnewawa avenues in Clovis when her son walked up in a rage. He shoved his arm inside her window and ordered her and her 4-year-old grandson, who has cerebral palsy, out of the car.

"He said, 'If you don't give me the car, I'm going to kill you,' " Frazier said.

About two miles away, Fresno police had just discovered Joyce Frazier's body.

Hours later, Fendley totaled his mother's Chrysler on a rural road in Merced County. The California Highway Patrol officers who went to the accident scene told Fresno police that Fendley was acting bizarrely.

"He was trying to wreck the car to kill himself," Fresno police detectives told Alford.

Fendley is being held in the Fresno County Jail on a no-bail charge. Fresno police Lt. Mark Salazar said police plan today to add a murder count to Fendley's carjacking and stolen vehicle counts.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6166, mbenjamin@fresnobee.com or @beebenjamin on Twitter.