‘The system failed her:’ Haunted by demons, Casey Norred’s life ended in Leon County jail

The knock on Beth Frederick and Steven Hjelm’s green, stained-glass framed front door came about noon.

It was July 24, a Monday, and the couple was chatting with an old friend at the dining room table of their antique adorned home on Lee Avenue in Betton Hills.

Beth answered. Three people stood at the door: A Leon County Sheriff’s deputy in uniform and two women in business attire — a victim’s advocate and a trainee.

The couple’s yellow lab, Shabo, wouldn’t stop barking, so Beth and Steven went outside near the carport. The visitors were professional and didn’t linger long.

Beth remembers the deputy’s exact words. They replay in her head, an endless loop.

“We’re sorry to tell you that your daughter was found deceased in her cell.”

Jennifer Norred, known to everyone as Casey, had been in the Leon County jail for three months.

It wasn’t her first stay, but it would be her last.

‘A smile you can hear’

A life interrupted by terrible dreams, incessant thoughts and drastic mood swings, began almost Peter Pan-like.

As a girl, Casey was happy, inquisitive.

“She had an audible smile,” her mom Beth said. “She would grin, and you could hear her when she smiled.”

Little Casey would take a magnifying glass and bug finder kit and wander through the backyard on a “safari.” Ladybugs and ants were fair game to catch, but not butterflies — she didn’t want to damage their wings. She begged her parents to spare the life of a tiny hopping spider that lived in their dining room. Casey named him Oscar.

She found refuge in nature and art. Her paintings and marker drawings later in life were vivid, boldly colored and outlined. A portrait of a friend in the form of a fairy, her favorite mythical creature. A mermaid-like, ginger-haired girl with ebony-lined eyes. A woman with floating rainbow locks that appeared to defy gravity.

In 1989, snow fell at Christmastime in Tallahassee. An 8-year-old Casey, troubled to see the enchanting white blanket covering the ground melt, scooped up snow in a jar. She was upset she could not save it.

– Tallahassee Democrat

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