After Alexander Cordell confessed to ambushing and gunning down his mother in June 2009, the 18-year-old smiled and told police he was a “psychotic killer.”
Relatives worry that Cordell, now 21, may never have to explain why he killed 40-year-old Shani Fecht because he was recently diagnosed as mentally incompetent to stand trial.
At the next hearing scheduled for Oct. 30, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn Lagrua will decide if Cordell should be forcibly medicated in the Fulton County jail, where he is being held without bond. His attorney has notified the court she plans to present an insanity defense if the case ever goes to trial.
“There’s an issue with mental health,” Elizabeth Markowitz, the court-appointed defense attorney, said. “I think Mr. Cordell is really sick.”
Several relatives who spoke publicly for the first time last week said they would like to see Cordell express remorse and be held accountable.
“He’s my nephew, and I love him still,” said Shani Fecht’s brother, Lee Strickland. “But at the same time, it’s just hard to understand why he would do something like this.”
Cordell had no history of violence. He didn’t use drugs, and he displayed no symptoms of mental illness prior to Fecht’s slaying, said Strickland and Cordell’s stepfather, Mike Fecht. Instead they described him as a quiet, somewhat awkward, freckled-faced kid.
The 40-year-old Shani Fecht, who relatives said was a stunning, free-spirited, loving woman, had no idea her son was harboring resentment toward her, Mike Fecht said. Cordell was raised by his dad and stepmother, but Fecht spent time with him on vacations and weekends, attended his wrestling and football games and took him to the movies.
Cordell acted distant toward his mother in the months prior to the slaying, but Mike Fecht said they attributed it to the fact that he was growing up and “hanging out with mom is just not cool anymore.”
At a probable cause hearing in 2009, Sandy Springs Police Detective Frank Trammer said the teenager offered several incoherent explanations for the killing. He said he was dissatisfied with himself. He also said he had grown tired of his mother calling him to express concerns about his future, that she wasn’t a good role model, and that she may have done some nude modeling back when he was young.
Shani Fecht learned in May 2009 that Cordell had dropped out of Chamblee High School in the middle of his senior year, but hid the news from her for several months. She also learned that Cordell had moved out of his father and stepmother’s house and into his own apartment in February, around the same time he inherited about $57,000 from his great-grandfather.
The Fechts were planning a move to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Mike had landed a dream job at an athletic conditioning facility. When Shani told Cordell, he acted a little upset, but didn’t verbalize it, Mike Fecht said.
On June 2, 2009, Cordell invited his mother to come visit his new apartment in Sandy Springs. He greeted Fecht at the apartment gate, then fired nine rounds from a 9 mm carbine rifle into her vehicle. Fecht died at the scene.
Mike Fecht, who moved to Florida after the killing but has since come back to Atlanta, remarried and is working as a yoga instructor. He said he was devastated by the loss of his wife but found healing through meditation and soul-searching. He wants his stepson to find peace, too, eventually.
“I am not angry with him,” Fecht said. “I have a lot of questions I would like answered.”