SI Vault
John Garrity
April 17, 2000
A few days before Billy Casper celebrated the 30th anniversary of one of the greatest weeks of his lire, he lived every parent's worst nightmare: His child was sent to prison, perhaps forever
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April 17, 2000

Fallen Son

A few days before Billy Casper celebrated the 30th anniversary of one of the greatest weeks of his lire, he lived every parent's worst nightmare: His child was sent to prison, perhaps forever

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To Billy and Shirley, David is still a precious part of their life's work, a loving human mosaic that started in the '50s with the births of their first three children, Linda, Billy Jr. and Bobby. Told by doctors that Shirley could have no more children, the Caspers—who joined the Mormon Church in 1966—waited seven years before adopting a little boy, Byron. Encouraged by their new faith to build a big family, they followed quickly with adopted twin girls, Jeni and Judi, then Charles, then David (when he was three days old), and finally, in 1974, Julia. But the finality was a ruse. In 1975, Shirley, at 40, shocked the doctors by delivering a baby, Sarah. Nineteen months later, she gave birth again, to Tommy. To this exuberant, roiling crowd the Caspers added foster children and loaners. They took in two children that Linda brought home from school.

"People thought we were gluttons for punishment," Shirley says. But most thought the Caspers were saints. Billy was called Dad by Johnny Miller. Former U.S. Amateur champ Mitch Voges turned to him for practical and spiritual advice. When Golfweek magazine named Billy father of the year in 1996, the choice was a no-brainer—the onetime sport of shepherds honoring the greatest shepherd in the sport. But there is something that Billy Casper has learned about children, and it was his mantra last week. "Once they get to a certain age," he said sadly, "you lose control."

David had some issues. Even before he got the Beretta, he carried what he called his "issue kit"—a zipper wallet that looked like an ordinary day planner. David's kit, however, was full of disorganizing tools: needles, an elastic tube to wrap around his arm as he shot up, scales to measure methamphetamine crystals and heroin, blades to cut the crystals, and a tin container to mix the drugs to make speedballs.

When he got out of Sierra Conservation Center, a prison in Jamestown, Calif., in December 1998 after having served three years for burglary, parole violation and an escape, David was not clean. But he tried to beat his addiction. His parents took him back to their Chula Vista home. They drove him to his meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. They drove him home. David says he stayed clean for at least a month.

Then he fell into what recovering alcoholics and addicts call a slip. "At first it was a few drinks, and maybe I'd smoke something," he says. "But then I was back, deep into my disease, back with old friends and doing hard drugs." He moved into his own apartment where, according to David, a friend, 23-year-old Lisa Llamas, dropped by regularly with crystal meth. David began showing up stoned at his meetings.

Billy and Shirley, past desperation, pushed their son to enroll at the Delancey Street Foundation in Los Angeles, a residential rehab facility where former convicts and drug abusers share their experiences in an effort to solve their problems. David, however, was put off by the minimum stay of two years. "My mom and dad tried to steer me in the right direction," he says. "They were willing to do whatever it took...but I had just been in prison for three years, and I didn't want it. It would have been going right back into confinement."

Last summer David's parole officer made an unannounced visit to his apartment. She immediately knew something was wrong. There were people in the back room and unmistakable signs of drug use. Taking David outside to her car, she patted him down and ordered him to appear at her office at a given time when, he assumed, she would arrest him.

David did not keep the appointment. He ditched his apartment and was on the move. "It was like a snowball," he says. "I was on the run, doing more and more drugs. There was more and more guilt, and I was more and more hopeless."

Soon after the parole bust he began breaking into houses and businesses around San Diego. On Oct. 4 he burglarized the Chula Vista home of Alexander Turquieh, the brother of a former girlfriend, stealing a shotgun and the Beretta he would use in his holdups. (David and a pal sawed down the shotgun, outlaw fashion.) He also broke into his parents' home and stole credit cards—he charged $30,000 to their accounts—a belt-buckle-mounted .22-caliber derringer that Billy won at a tournament in 1982 and the keys to his sister Sarah's black Volvo 850. A couple of days after David burglarized his parents' house, Sarah came home to find her car missing.

Then, according to charges filed in San Diego, the string of robberies began. Through Llamas, David had met Francisco (Ernie) Beruman, a 36-year-old Chula Vista tile setter. Beruman had no police record, and the braces on his teeth gave him an adolescent look, but he became Casper's driver and lookout. Beruman usually waited in the car, monitoring police calls on a scanner and communicating with David by walkie-talkie. David had a black mask that according to Llamas he planned to use for a home invasion but didn't wear on robberies. His only disguise was the Calvin Klein jacket, which covered an elaborate spider-web tattoo on his left arm. He was invariably high from shooting up a mixture of heroin and speed less than a half hour before each heist. Then, says Llamas, he'd get "a rush" from the robbery.

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