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Holman warden built career after altercations with women cost him Trooper job

Holman warden Terry Raybon was involved in two physical altercations that led to his termination from the Department of Public Safety.

Fountain Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama.

Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore made national news last week after officials told a female reporter her skirt was too short and her open-toed shoes were unacceptable.

Other female reporters and attorneys jumped in to share their own stories of being subjected to  similar regulations that seemed to be capriciously applied to women.

In addition to these issues, Holman has gained notoriety as one of the worst among Alabama’s maligned prison system. In 2020 ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn set the prison to be decommissioned.

The personnel file of Holman prison warden Terry Raybon shows that he had his own personal issues with women before joining the Alabama Department of Corrections that led to him being terminated from the Alabama Department of Public Safety (now the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency).

The two incidents occurred in 1998 and 1999, both involving physical altercations with women. Law enforcement responded in both incidents, but no charges were ever filed against Raybon. 

Raybon declined to comment for this story, citing department policy. APR has initiated a request to speak to Raybon further about the incident, but the process is currently ongoing.

The first offense

The first incident occurred in Troy on Oct. 6, 1998 and almost resulted in Raybon’s immediate termination at that time.

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Raybon, using the screen name “supertrooper,” had met an Australian woman Pauline Kerslake online and after two months agreed to pay half of her airfare to bring her to Alabama to live with him for several weeks.

According to an email Raybon sent to Capt. T.W. Cheatham regarding the incident, Raybon said Kerslake arrived in the U.S. on September 22, 1998 and began living at his apartment.

“Things did not go as she had planned,” Raybon told Cheatham. “She began to complaint (SIC) a great deal about me not being at the apartment a lot.”

Raybon said he and Kerslake got into an argument on Sunday, Oct. 4 and told Raybon she wanted to go home, but needed money to change her flight. Raybon said he would not have the money until Friday and said things seemed to calm down. 

Two days later, Raybon and Kerslake got into another argument, leading to a physical altercation.

The argument started after Raybon says a friend from Athens called him on the phone, prompting Kerslake to come in and “start hollering.”

“I got off the phone and tried to talk to her and she started making accusations,” Raybon told Cheatham. “In an effort to calm her down because she was getting loud, I grabbed her arms and asked her several times to calm down. We agreed.”

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Kerslake told Sgt. Sonny Schreiber of the Troy Police Department that the couple began having problems when a “girl kept calling his apartment.”

After Kerslake had calmed down, the friend from Athens called again, and Kerslake became upset again. Raybon recounted in the email telling Kerslake to “shut up” before grabbing her again to try to calm her down at the door. According to Raybon’s version of events, that was the extent of the physical confrontation, as a neighbor came and knocked on the door after hearing the commotion.

Kerslake told police, however, that Raybon had struck her with a closed fist on the left side of her head.

Officers on scene did not find any sign of injury to Kerslake, but she went to the hospital after the altercation and had suffered a perforated left ear drum.

A witness to the event told police she heard loud footsteps coming from the apartment and heard Kerslake scream twice.

On Nov. 16, 1998, Raybon from Capt. Cary B. Sutton, acting chief of the Highway Patrol Division, detailing three separate complaints against Raybon including the altercation

“These reports demonstrate you have acted with complete disregard for the ethical standards of the Department of Public Safety…” Sutton wrote. 

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The letter summarizes the Troy event, as well as Raybon’s failure to pay a debt and failure to submit numerous reports in a timely and satisfactory manner. Cheatham also states in the complaint that “there is creditable information that there may be more problems with citizens or business’ due to his lack of responsibility and unbecoming conduct.”

“It is obvious Cpl. Raybon has used his position of being an Alabama State Trooper for personal gain in his private life,” Cheatham said. 

“Because of this gross misconduct, especially your reckless off-duty conduct that can only be described as degenerate and corrupt beyond all bounds of decency, I was originally intending to recommend your immediate dismissal from employment from the Department of Public Safety,” Sutton wrote.

Instead, Sutton informed Raybon that he would be suspended for 30 days without pay, demoted to trooper, and transferred to a new post.

Sutton included an ultimatum for Raybon’s continued employment with the department.

“Your conduct, both on-duty and off-duty, cannot and will not be allowed to continue,” Sutton wrote. “You must never again resort to domestic violence or engage in morally reprehensible behavior … In short, there is no [one] except yourself that can cure your problems. If there is ever again even the slightest indication that you have violated one or more of the department’s policies or regulations, I will not have any hesitancy in ordering your immediate termination from employment.”

The second offense

Less than a month after finishing his 30-day suspension, Raybon was once again involved in a physical altercation with a woman, this time at a Prattville hotel. 

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On Feb. 7, 1999, Raybon engaged in an altercation with Robin Wells at the Prattville Hampton Inn, according to records.

Raybon testified that he had met Wells online two and a half years earlier and at one point had been in a romantic relationship with her. He had borrowed nearly $6,000 from Wells as well as her occasionally paying some of his bills, including a cell phone. 

The meeting at the Prattville hotel was to discuss repayment of this money, Raybon said. 

But it soon escalated into a physical confrontation.

When troopers arrived on the scene, they found Wells upset and crying with a red mark under her right eye. Wells told police that Raybon had thrown a cell phone at her, which hit her in the face, and that she had also broken an acrylic fingernail in the process of pushing and shoving at the hotel door.

According to Raybon, Wells grabbed him at the hotel door to prevent him from leaving and he was unaware that she had broken a fingernail in the process. He also initially denied throwing the cell phone, emphasizing he had placed it on the table. However, officer testimony said that Raybon eventually said he “pitched” the cell phone towards the table where Wells was seated.

In addition to the physical altercation, the department also took issue with Raybon owing Wells a debt, as they found she had previously been convicted of multiple felonies.

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Soon after, Raybon received another letter from Sutton advising him of his termination from the department.

Sutton reminded Raybon about the suspension and the ultimatum that he had issued against further violations.

“This action was taken in response to a series of violations of Department of Public Safety policy and misconduct which brought unfavorable attention to the department reaching as far away as Tasmania,” Sutton wrote. “At the time you received the notice, you were made aware that in the event of any further violation or misconduct you would be terminated. It appears either you did not believe this or you did not care.”

Sutton went on to call Raybon a “danger to the public” and recommended his immediate dismissal.

Raybon appealed the decision to the personnel board, and administrative judge Richard Meadows found that Raybon was not responsible for borrowing from a felon, as there was no evidence he knew about Wells’ criminal history. However, Meadows upheld the termination on the grounds of the altercation.

“If the Prattville incident was standing alone there is no question that a recommendation for mitigation of punishment would be made,” Meadows said. “However, after giving consideration to the nature of the incident for which the Employee was punished in November 1998 a recommendation for mitigation of punishment is not appropriate in this case.”

Beginning a career in Corrections

During Raybon’s termination appeal with the personnel board, Ralph Hooks Jr. testified to the Raybon’s character. Hooks testified that he had met Raybon through the Alabama National Guard and touted his military service.

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Hooks was the warden of Limestone Correctional Facility at the time and noted he had recently begun training Raybon.

Hooks appears again in Raybon’s personnel file about a year after the conclusion of the appeal.

On March 20, 2000, Raybon entered an application to serve as a correctional officer after a brief stint working as in-store loss prevention for Walmart.

Written in pen at the top of that application is the sentence “recruited for Limestone Correctional Facility by Warden Hooks.”

Hooks was also the top reference on the application.

Raybon had to account for his termination on the application and admitted to making “some extremely bad judgment” in the Troy incident and that he had accepted his punishment. He also recounted the Prattville incident, not mentioning any throwing of the cell phone at Wells. 

On September 20, 2000, the Department of Corrections personnel division informed Raybon that he was not able to be considered for employment due to the termination.

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“You were dismissed from the Department of Public Safety for violating departmental policy and were not recommended for reemployment,” the letter reads. “Before we can consider you for employment, you must be recommended for reemployment by the Department of Public Safety.”

APR found no documentation of a change in that recommendation status; however, Raybon joined the Alabama Department of Corrections in November 2000.

Since that time he has continued to rise through the ranks of the correctional system, with a mostly clean disciplinary record. 

The only blemish on his record with corrections came in 2009, when he “initiated and engaged in a physical altercation with another correctional officer. The confrontation consisted of a shoving match between Raybon and the officer, and Raybon was suspended for five days,.

That didn’t slow down Raybon’s progress though, as records show he was promoted to correctional lieutenant just six months later. 

As of May 1, 2022, Raybon is a “correctional warden III” making just shy of $8,000 a month.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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The Alabama Department of Corrections Law Enforcement Services Division is investigating the incident and "the response by the staff involved."